by Brian Washington
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told state leaders this week at a legislative conference in Washington, D.C. that the Trump-DeVos education budget, which includes $250 million for failed ideas like private school vouchers, is designed to “enhance” school choice legislation at the state level.
However, as voucher proponents begin to salivate in anticipation of all the federal funding they think they’ll get, they need to beware. Parents, educators, and lawmakers who support public schools are banding together on behalf of students and leading a strong resistance against using public tax dollars to pay for tuition at private schools.
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This resistance is fueled by the fact that vouchers, including education savings accounts and tuition tax credits (No matter what they call them…they are all vouchers!), drain critical dollars away from public schools and the vast majority of students who attend them.
In addition, while voucher schemes are marketed as a way for poor families to send their kids to private schools, realistically, they rarely cover all the necessary costs. Instead, voucher programs usually end up subsidizing families who can already afford to send their kids to private school.
Parents and educators, in their opposition to vouchers, also cite the lack of accountability when it comes to student performance and making sure the rights of our most vulnerable kids, students with disabilities, are protected.
Recently in Arkansas, under intense pressure from educators, parents, and other public education stakeholders, the House of Representatives rejected HB 1222, which would have created education savings accounts. Educators say the bill’s failure shows legislators care about public education.
And In Iowa, where a recent poll found 58 percent oppose using public funds to pay for private education, voucher legislation has stalled in the state legislature.
In Texas, voucher bills have been introduced in every legislative session dating back to 1995 but, according to education advocates there, no measure has ever been approved.
Voucher legislation has also run into legal roadblocks via court cases brought by public school advocates in states like Colorado and Nevada, where the State Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that vouchers cannot be funded with money appropriated for public schools.
But those interested in funneling public tax dollars into voucher schemes with little or no accountability for how the money is spent are not deterred. New voucher bills have reportedly been introduced in Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Texas and about 6 other states. And with the Trump-DeVos budget promising millions nationwide, expect to see more states with school choice plans offering students and families a false choice through private school vouchers.
TAKE ACTION: Educators know the best way to ensure our students’ futures is to invest in public education. Tell Capitol Hill lawmakers to reject the Trump-DeVos budget plan and oppose private school vouchers.