This week is “School Choice Week,” an annual propaganda blitz sponsored by organizations that favor private school voucher plans.
The event is misnamed. Voucher plans bestow choice, all right – just not to parents. Private religious schools that receive public funds from private school vouchers retain the right to decide who gets in and who doesn’t. They get to choose to discriminate.
Despite these problems, voucher plans continue to proliferate in the states. AU’s Public Policy Department is monitoring more than 100 state bills in 2022 that would create or expand private school voucher programs.
You can help AU oppose vouchers by arming yourself with some facts. Consider the following:
Vouchers violate your religious freedom: The separation of church and state means that you get to support only the religious groups of your choice – or none at all if that’s your preference. Vouchers violate your right of conscience by taking your tax dollars and giving them to private religious schools for religious indoctrination.
Vouchers don’t work: Vouchers have been pitched as a way to boost the academic performance of students who are falling behind. They don’t do that. Several studies have shown that children attending voucher schools perform no better than their public school counterparts. In some cases, they even do worse.
Vouchers force you to support schools that discriminate: Private schools that receive vouchers are not required to provide students with the same rights and protections as public schools.. They may deny admission to or expel students for being LGBTQ, having a disability, for being the “wrong” religion or for failing a capricious “moral” standard. Faculty and staff at these schools are subjected to discriminatory policies. We’ve worked hard to eradicate discrimination in American society. Vouchers force you to subsidize it, and that’s wrong.
Vouchers require you to support schools that teach controversial doctrines: Many private religious schools teach things that are problematic. Fundamentalist academies may teach that LGBTQ people are “evil” or that women should not have equal rights. These schools may teach creationism in lieu of sound science or offer false “Christian nation” views of American history. Fundamentalists have the right to believe these things and teach them in their schools, but you should not be expected to pay for the propagation of such views.
Vouchers don’t help poor students: Despite what voucher boosters claim, these schemes don’t help low-income kids. Most voucher programs are capped at a few thousand dollars, and many private schools charge much higher figures for tuition. They may also tack on additional fees for things like uniforms, books, transportation, etc. This means private schools are still out of reach for many low-income families. If we really want to help these families, we should ensure that they have access to a well-funded public school.