5 names politicians use to sell private-school voucher schemes to parents

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by Brian Washington

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Our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been called a “four-star general in the privatization movement.” One of the most destructive weapons this general has in her arsenal to use against public schools is voucher schemes.

As education activists know, vouchers divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools—starving them of the critical funding needed for students to thrive—only to use these funds to subsidize private and/or religious schools.

However, voucher proponents, like DeVos and politicians found in your state, almost never call them vouchers. Instead, they attempt to mislead parents, taxpayers, and voters by re-branding these plots to drain and defund public education with some pleasant-sounding, flowery name plucked from the school-choice lexicon.

As a service to pro-public education advocates everywhere, Education Votes is going to highlight our top five names used by politicians to sell voucher schemes to the public.

  1. Opportunity Scholarships: A voucher that can be used for a wide range of items connected to attending a private and/or religious school, including tuition, transportation, equipment, and other expenses.
  2. Parental Choice Scholarships: Functions like opportunity scholarships. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which recently announced plans to up its game promoting vouchers, is peddling its own model of this type of voucher legislation.
  3. Tuition Tax Credits: Provides a state or federal income tax credit for private and/or religious school expenses, including tuition. In some states, instead of a tax credit, it’s a tax deduction.
  4. Education Savings Accounts: An investment account, similar to a Roth IRA, where money for private-school expenses can be saved. ESAs provide tax-free earned interest, as long as it’s used for tuition and other education-related expenses. Education savings accounts generally benefit families who can already afford to send their kids to private school.
  5. Charitable Tax Credit: Allows individuals and businesses to take a tax credit for donating to private, non-profit organizations that provide private school vouchers. It operates like a tuition tax credit, but, in this case, the tax credit shifts to the individual or businesses making the donation.

Whether it’s so-called opportunity scholarships, tuition tax credits/deductions, or education savings accounts, the money to cover all of these voucher programs has to come from somewhere, and it’s usually taken away from the vast majority of students attending our public schools. Therefore, if you see any of these names or titles, or, for that matter, any education legislation with the words “choice,” “opportunity scholarships”, or “tax credit” in the title, it’s time to warn the members of your community that the budget for their neighborhood public school is in danger of being hijacked.

Reader Comments

  1. The reason why the voucher system is under such scrutiny is because there is an uncertainty regarding the standards in which such schools would have to uphold. What about students who have IEPs, language limitations, parents who are less involved? Furthermore, can anyone assure that all all students will have the same opportunity to attend these “better” schools? The main issues that plague public schools in particular includemphasis, teacher shortages (teachers also get burned out and leave the field), limited resources (technology and supplies), and larger class sizes (30+ per class). If voucherso will remedy these issues, that would be good deal.

  2. I am registered as Republican and they have failed us Americans deeply with DeVos election and many more reasons (NO DAPLY). Republican politicians are pushed by the dollar bill in their pocket only. I will become an Independent from now on. Go Bernie Sanders!

  3. I would like to see more evidence-based writing on EdVotes. I imagine many other sides of the argument have similar articles/sites about why their option is the better one–probably also with unsubstantiated (within the text) information. There’s a whole lot of pathos and very little logos, you know? I would like to see hard data in support of claims being made. I don’t think its a zero sum game; isn’t it at least possible–like most arguments–that this one has some nuance? Let’s look at why some families see vouchers as an attractive offer and go from there. It makes me suspicious to read any article so heavily one-sided, especially one with no data present within the article itself and on such a passionate subject. Even (especially?) if I agree with many of the points being made, I expect to be presented with checkable facts and reliable sources, as well as reasoning behind other ways of seeing it.

    In short, if a student of mine turned this is, they would not get a very good grade. “Evaluate the counterclaims and cite your evidence” would be written at the top.

  4. Best I can compare it to, is that rather than upgrading a fleet of cars than provide transportation for most of the kids in the USA at a reasonable cost, Sec DeVos is going to go buy a luxury cruise ship that few can fit on and none can afford, and call thatEducation problem solved.

    Much like Mary Antoinette saying to the poor without bread, “well let them eat cake”, not taking into consideration that their fields of wheat and chickens were surely rationed and cake with sugar is so much more expensive than the staple of bread they need.

  5. The public needs to be educated as to WHY vouchers/charters etc are so devastating to our country. The word “choice” has totally positive connotations to the average American. They do not understand that “choice” …
    vouchers/privatization/charters leads to:
    increased isolation of cultures
    increased profit for private investors
    the potential for tax dollars to support extreme and un American charter schools
    deterioration of the public schools which will still be educating the MAJORITY of students.
    The public school system is the foundation of our free society and the best hope of a free and equal generation.

  6. Public Education is becoming for the left-overs. Thanks to all in insights and money grabbing politicians to make it appear that they are HELPING! Not enough money to support, provide PD in public schools; and yet – the voucher, scholarship, incentive awards – goes to exactly where???????

  7. Yea uhhh. You need to chill and stop the spin. I am a public high school teacher who has used education savings accounts for years for my kids college. My kids were products of a great public k-12 school and one is now in college and the other will be shortly.
    They are awesome and are helping me send my kids to college. The earned tax free interest has added enough to help with the funds needed – Otherwise they couldn’t go. So please stop your own misleading statements to all the members.

  8. I have been a member of AEA/ NEA since the 80’s & in Alabama we have had to constantly fight for funds and against cuts by our legislature. They have been following ALEC bills and Republican national ideas..It seems the Republican party does not care for public schools even though two of the representatives from my district are retired educators. Since we lost our leader Paul Hubbert and Republicans took control, our per pupil expenditure has been cut by $700 per year.

  9. Handing over the leadership of the department of education to a person with no experience seems ludicrous. Would you go to a manicurist to perform your heart surgery? Just because this woman has money and is business savvy it does not give her the credentials to understand public education.

    Destroying public education will impact our entire nation; privileged individuals will continue to receive their private education while the masses without real or honest representation in our nations capital will be left behind!

    Congress seems more concerned with padding their wallet while the American public (who actually pay their fare share of taxes) foot the bill. I thought it was public service, not holding tax payers hostage for ransom. What am I talking about is the bloated system where I pay for all legislators insanely expensive health care forever, and they have a pension plan that is not Social Security. Maybe if they too were depending on Social Security for part of their retirement we would not have to hear about saving SS all the time! Damn sure it would not be raided for other expenses. Lets get real about this country, it needs to go back to serving the people not the other way around.

    Who has the intestinal fortitude to speak for the people who are afraid of the future? We the people are asked to believe that the corruption and conflicts of interests are not important or do not exist. Should individuals (elected officials) profit from legislation, insider information, bills and agendas that benefit the income of our elected leaders at the public’s expense!!!??? Hell No! I say.

    Get some ethics, some basic morals in Washington soon, or our country will implode upon its self.

  10. Even though I don’t live in Maine or Alaska, I am so proud of their two senators that voted against DeVos. It is truly sad that after all our efforts, we couldn’t get one more Republican senator to vote their own mind. I am sure there were some who could see that she was unqualified and that the goal should be to strengthen our public school system where the majority of students go to learn. Our political system is broken beyond belief when senators are more swayed by money than common sense & the needs of their constituents.

  11. I believe the school voucher program is a thinly veiled effort to undermine the separation of church and state. I also believe that many people do not realize that this long-standing separation so wisely established by the founding fathers is largely what has saved us from the political upheaval so universal in countries where there is no such separation. I resent my tax dollars being used to send students to private elementary schools (primarily religious-based schools). We should be concentrating our dollars and efforts on improving our public school system. And let’s pay our teachers more and support their unions so they can continue to fight for fairness and advances in education for ALL children.

  12. Maybe Devos is what it takes to get some quality teachers in certain Denton schools. Why would anyone want a voucher to choose a school for their children? How about keeping the worst kind of teachers in the poorest schools: teacher who do drugs off duty, sleep with married men, break up homes, turn children against their parents, lie about being sick so they can go on holiday, and who are incompetent to teach since they don’t know the topics they are required to teach. Denton puts the best teachers at the best schools and puts the worst teachers at the worst schools. They allow teachers to bring drug dealer felons to the school for hero worship. If the schools are supposed to be places of acculturation as they were when I taught then why do we choose the worst and defend them with excuses like tenure.

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