Public Schools

The Choice Is Obvious: Support Public Schools

  Liz Hayes

You’ll hear a lot this week about private school vouchers during National School Choice Week, but what you won’t hear a lot about is how vouchers don’t work, how vouchers undermine public education and religious freedom, and how vouchers don’t help children, families, public schools or you – the taxpayer.

The public is growing wise to the problems with private school vouchers. Arizona voters in November overwhelmingly rejected voucher expansion. A year ago, residents of a Colorado county voted in a new, pro-public education school board that ended a voucher program and years of litigation. AU and a coalition of organizations supporting public education and military families successfully lobbied against congressional attempts to divert federal money to an unwanted voucher program for military children last year.

Yet pro-voucher forces continue efforts to funnel public funds away from the public schools that educate 90 percent of American schoolchildren. The only federally funded voucher program, in Washington, D.C., will come up for renewal after this year and some members of Congress will try to extend its funding, despite studies that show the program doesn’t work and objections from the D.C. community. President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continue to include voucher funding as a department priority. And several state legislatures have proposed new bills to create or expand voucher programs.

That’s why Americans United, the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE, which AU co-chairs) and a large coalition of education advocates use this week to expose the problems with private school voucher programs:

Vouchers don’t help children: Repeated studies have shown that vouchers don’t improve students’ academic achievement, and in some cases may worsen their performance. Additionally, private schools accepting taxpayer-funded vouchers don’t offer students the same civil rights protections required of public schools, they don’t have to provide services to students with disabilities and they can discriminate against LGBTQ students and families.

Vouchers don’t help families: Voucher programs 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 usually don’t cover the entire cost of private school tuition, making a private education unaffordable for many families even with a voucher.

Vouchers don’t help public schools: Whether they’re called vouchers, tuition tax credits or education savings accounts, 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 innovative teachers, curriculum development, adequate materials, new technology and all the other necessities to prepare children for the future.

Vouchers don’t help you: You, the taxpayer, should not be forced to pay for two schools systems – one public and one private. All Americans have the right to decide what religions, if any, they will support. No one should be compelled to fund religious instruction; that’s a clear violation of religious freedom.

You learn more about the problems with vouchers through NCPE and through this video produced by Americans United:

Don’t believe the hype you hear this week. Vouchers aren’t a good choice for children, families, public schools or taxpayers. Let’s keep public money where it belongs – in public schools.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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