DeVos has spent years pushing voucher legislation across the country, and has refused to foreclose the notion that she will work to privatize our public schools as head of the Department of Education. Showing support for public education is important today considering the many efforts we are seeing nationally and in the states to adopt private school voucher programs that undermine public education.
Plus, this week is “National School Choice Week,” a campaign whose mission is to promote private school vouchers, which give private schools – not parents or students – a real choice.
It’s fair to say the stakes for public schools are especially high.
Voucher schemes siphon tax funds away from our public schools.
On the federal level, President Donald Trump has promised to adopt private school vouchers, including a $20 billion voucher plan. And of course, he has nominated Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education. Moreover, it is likely that Members of Congress will waste little time in attempting to reauthorize the federally funded Washington, D.C. voucher program, which expired in 2016.
School voucher legislation is not just being handed down from the top; states across the country are actively pushing it as well. Although 24 states already have private school voucher programs in place, so far this year, 14 states have introduced legislation that will either create or expand a voucher program.
Some states, like Texas, have been especially gung-ho. Both the governor and lieutenant governor have urged the legislature to pass voucher legislation there. Fortunately, however, the Texas House Public Education Committee signaled in an off-session hearing that private school vouchers may face resistance.
As it has been in recent years, the most popular trend in the states continues to be legislation that would create an education savings account (ESA) plan. ESAs are simply vouchers by another name. They funnel public dollars into special bank accounts for students, from which they can withdraw money to use for various educational purposes, including tuition at private voucher schools. 12 states have already introduced ESA legislation: Arkansas, California, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia. And in Nevada, where the state supreme court recently struck down its ESA program, a fight is already brewing to reenact ESA legislation.
With private school voucher proponents working hard at both the federal and state levels to push forward their agenda, the time to act is now! Arm yourself with up-to-date information on vouchers at ncpecoalition.org. And take action: let your elected officials know that you oppose private school vouchers and that you oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos.