Public Schools

The choice is clear: Reject private school vouchers

  Samantha Sokol

Another year, another National School Choice Week. Starting yesterday, Jan. 21, voucher advocates are out in full force pushing for more private school voucher programs. But what you won’t hear a lot about this week from them is how the past year has brought even more examples of how vouchers don’t work. 

During 2022 and 2023, several states enacted bills to expand existing and establish new voucher programs, making more students eligible than ever before. Many of those states adopted universal voucher programs that allow virtually every student in the state — regardless of their family’s income, whether they have only attended private school or any other factor — to get a taxpayer-funded voucher to pay for tuition at private school. 

As these massive programs are going into effect, we are seeing stark examples of how they are going wrong. Private school vouchers like these drain public funds away from public schools that serve 90% of American students. With these massive voucher expansions, costs are getting out of hand, wealthy families are accruing the most benefits and students’ academic performance is suffering. Not to mention all of the longstanding problems with vouchers that we’ve highlighted for decades: they lack accountability to taxpayers, fund discrimination with taxpayer dollars and harm religious freedom. 

Yet pro-voucher campaigners, funded by billionaire donors like Betsy DeVos and the Kochs, continue their relentless effort to expand vouchers and destroy public education. That’s why the National Coalition for Public Education (which AU co-chairs) and public education advocates across the country are using this week to expose the problems with private school voucher programs.

Vouchers Harm Public Education

These programs are funded with your tax dollars – money that could otherwise support our public schools. That means while your local public schools still will be educating the vast majority of neighborhood children, the schools will have less money for teachers, curriculum development, adequate materials, new technology and all the other necessities to prepare children for the future. Many voucher programs are costing far more than lawmakers initially expected, leading to budget shortfalls and cuts to local public schools and other government services.

Vouchers Harm Academic Performance

Repeated studies have shown that vouchers don’t improve students’ academic achievement, and in many cases worsen their performance. In fact, studies show that accepting a voucher in Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana and Washington, D.C., has a similar or worse negative impact on students’ math scores as natural disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Katrina. 

Vouchers Fund Discrimination

Private schools accepting taxpayer-funded vouchers don’t offer students the same civil rights protections required of public schools. They also don’t provide the same services and protections to students with disabilities that public schools do, and they can discriminate against students for a variety of reasons, including disability, identifying as LGBTQ+ and religion. Although promoted as “school choice,” voucher programs only provide “choice” for private schools, not for families. Private schools can pick and choose which students they serve and which students to turn away; public schools accept everyone.

Vouchers Harm Religious Freedom

Most students who receive vouchers use them to attend religious schools. All Americans have the right to decide what religions, if any, they will support. No one should be compelled to fund religious instruction and indoctrination; that’s a clear violation of religious freedom.

Don’t believe the hype you hear this week. Private school vouchers aren’t a good choice for all of the reasons above, and much more. Let’s keep public money where it belongs – in public schools. You can help – use our simple online tool to urge your state legislators to reject all private school voucher bills.

To learn more about the problems with vouchers visit

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