Advocates of taxpayer funding for private schools have dubbed Jan. 25-31 “National School Choice Week.” The event is designed primarily to mislead the public and drum up support for vouchers, tax credits and other forms of taxpayer aid to religious and other private schools. Despite the unpopular opinions of most voters on vouchers, politicians and corporations (along with the Religious Right) continue to rebrand and propose new schemes. Just look at this map of current and proposed voucher programs:
The forces behind vouchers are varied. Some are lobbyists for the Catholic hierarchy who want a taxpayer bailout to save their financially ailing parochial school system. Some are fundamentalist Christians who claim public education is “godless” and want taxpayers to prop up private academies that teach creationism, anti-gay bias, faulty “Christian nation” history, anti-woman theology and other offensive concepts. Still others are radical anti-government groups that don’t like public education and want to see it privatized so corporations can move in and run schools on the cheap for the sake of a quick profit. Others despise teachers’ unions.
No matter their motivation, these organizations share the same goal: shifting as many tax resources as possible from the public school system, which serves 90 percent of America’s schoolchildren, to private academies that play by their own rules and aren’t accountable to the taxpayer. Proponents of “School Choice Week” would rather not talk about the many problems inherent in voucher programs. Here are some of the things they are not telling the American people:
Voucher programs have sparked scandals in several states, as fly-by-night schools that offer questionable education raid the public purse.
In Washington, D.C., a voucher scheme allowed unaccredited, unregulated schools to recieve voucher support, including one school affiliated with the Nation of Islam.
In Louisiana, schools that teach discredited versions of science and base education on fundamentalist Christian tenets have been allowed into a voucher program.
In Florida, con artists have treated a voucher program as a license to steal from the state. Just look at these examples!
The New York Times ran an expose on these programs and their agendas.
Numerous studies in several jurisdictions have shown that vouchers do not improve students’ educational performance.
Wisconsin is home to the nation’s longest-running voucher program, but studies show that students taking part in it are doing no better than their peers in public schools.
In Ohio, a voucher plan has also failed to boost student academic performance.
New York City has a privately funded voucher program. Studies have shown that the program has not helped participating students academically.
Congress passed a voucher “experiment” in Washington, D.C. during the presidency of George W. Bush. Several studies have shown that it has not boosted the academic performance of the targeted population. The most recent was a meta-analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.
Contrary to the claims of the supporters of “School Choice Week,” the American people do not support vouchers. Several polls have shown that a majority of Americans oppose shifting tax resources from public to private schools. More importantly, when given the opportunity to vote on the matter directly, Americans trounce vouchers and other forms of tax aid to private and religious schools at the polls. In ballot referenda, voters have defeated tax aid to religious schools 24 times since 1967.
Here are two polls that show that Americans support strong local public schools that benefit all, not misguided voucher programs that siphon money away from public institutions:
For more information on why vouchers are bad public policy, see these Americans United publications.
Be sure to check out our #voucherFAIL tumblr for links to more stories on the failure of voucher programs.