Facts about school vouchers

The pro-voucher position believes that schools should compete for students or risk going out of business. This may work for markets, but it has no place in education as those that support it do not factor in that it is highly disruptive to formative education to regularly switch (choose) a new school.

[Find our printable factsheet on vouchers here.]

This is the basis for CPS’ “choice system”. The problem is that choice systems also require added levels of bureaucracy to run it. The research on vouchers has shown that academic gains are microscopic to non-existent and not worth the financial demands of completely overhauling a school system to add an additional sector to oversee vouchers.

Vouchers do not improve student achievement

Certain studies have shown slight gains for voucher students and others show negative or little to no difference. What is clear is that there is no evidence that voucher programs have made any substantial impact on student achievement.

Multiple studies have shown that the 24 year old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) have not moved scores for low-income students significantly. Only after 20+ years in 2014, scores inched up above the comparison group of public school students in Math (see chart here) but this was only after they raised voucher qualification from the initial amount for a family of 4 from $22,350 (1.75 x national poverty line) to roughly $71,000 ($78,000 if parents are married). This demonstrates that parent income still matters. With this increase in eligibility, it’s also possible that the vouchers have subsidized students that may have been enrolled in private school anyway.

Read more about the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program here.

Costs and oversight

A major change to a public school system will create costs that are necessary to finance, regulate, and provide services. These funds have historically come from the monies allocated for traditional public schools. Due to the MPCP, Milwaukee Public Schools saw a dramatic loss of funding which led to property tax increases to keep traditional public schools afloat.

In a system with Mayoral control, it’s possible that if the mayor is in support of vouchers, they will be less stringent in the accountability of them as seen with charters in Chicago, which has led to problems for students with special needs.

Loss of rights and federal protections

Public schools are accountable to federal protections of the First Amendment, Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (desegregation of schools), Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments (protections from gender discrimination), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Private schools are not.

Church and state issues

In a voucher system, public dollars are used to fund religious or private education with little to no accountability for tax dollars. In a choice system, parents are expected to vote with their feet, but who wants to continually switch schools if their needs aren’t met?

Schools need to be funded adequately so that they are robust in their offerings and can meet the needs of all of their students. We don’t have libraries, firehouses, or police stations that cater to personal choice. All services are offered to everyone. Why should schools be different?

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