Voucher Scheme Spells Bad News for StudentsMarch 30, 2011
It’s a sad day for D.C. and for public education all across the country. Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to continue the controversial D.C. school voucher scheme. This spells bad news for students in D.C., as study after study has proven that vouchers don’t work for students. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s final report on the D.C. private school voucher pilot program confirmed again that there’s “no conclusive evidence” that the program improved student achievement overall, even for the high-priority group of students who applied from “schools in need of improvement.” Four federal studies — from the Bush and Obama administrations — have also shown vouchers don’t work.
If that weren’t enough, a 2007 Government Accountability Office study also found pervasive problems with the program: Tuition was paid to schools that don’t actually charge tuition; some schools weren’t accredited while others lacked occupancy permits; and some teachers didn’t have bachelor’s degrees. D.C. students deserve better.
The five-year pilot program expired years ago. It was finally supposed to be brought to a reasonable end through a compromise between Congress and President Obama last year, in which no new students would be added to the voucher rolls. In this phase-out of the failed program, all current voucher students will continue to receive a voucher until they graduate high school. AAUW urges Congress and the Obama administration to abide by this deal.
And if you think the voucher program imposed on the District won’t affect folks outside the Beltway, think again. Your tax dollars fund this voucher program. In addition, voucher advocates see the D.C. scheme as a pilot for nationwide implementation. We can only hope it won’t go that far. The bottom line is that vouchers fly in the face of our democracy’s commitment to public education; they siphon off scarce taxpayer funds for private or religious schools that selectively admit students.
This should be obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes. Unfortunately, vouchers are less about education and more about implementing a social agenda. Vouchers blur the separation of church and state and circumvent pesky civil rights laws (Title IX, anyone?), and they can do it because these schools aren’t responsible to the public or an elected school board and aren’t held to any accountability standards.
There’s no doubt that our country needs meaningful education reform, but vouchers are the wrong strategy. We must use precious tax dollars to improve and strengthen the public schools that serve 90 percent of our students.
To learn more about AAUW’s opposition to the D.C. voucher program, visit AAUW’s online newsroom.