by Brian Washington
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Ohio educator David Romick, who has taught in the Dayton Public School District for 25-years, knows all too well the dangers of private school vouchers and their destructive impact on public education.
Last year, the state’s voucher program, which uses taxpayer dollars for private school tuition, resulted in his district jamming students into larger class sizes. Why? Because as more students took the voucher, the unanticipated enrollment loss to public schools forced district leaders to reduce its course offerings or collapse classrooms with declining enrollment into bigger class sizes. He adds teachers were also stripped of their current classroom assignments and given new ones. Keep in mind, all this happened in the middle of the school year.
“That type of disruption is not good for students,” said Romick, who believes spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a national voucher program, as proposed by politicians in Washington, D.C., is not how taxpayers’ money should be spent.
The investment needs to be in public schools, and it needs to be an investment that will allow educators to address the increasingly diverse needs of all the different students we serve.
Romick recently shared his thoughts about private school vouchers with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a former pre-school teacher and public education champion who has pulled together an honest and scathing critique of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan to privatize public education. It focuses on their proposed $250 million voucher scheme.
“Privatization can take many forms, including direct subsidies or vouchers, tax credits or deductions, and education savings accounts,” argues Murray in the memo to her senate colleagues. “Although the exact forms vary, what ties them all together is that they each siphon taxpayer funding away from public education toward private schools that lack accountability, often fail to serve all students, and do not guarantee their rights.”
The memo gives lawmakers the truth about how privatization policies really work—sharing stories from educators, parents, and families. It also outlines how privatization falls short in three areas:
- Accountability and Transparency;
- Challenges in rural areas (where there may be few or no private school options); and
- Protecting students’ rights.
“Her arguments are on point,” said Traci Arway, a special education coordinator who works near Columbus, Ohio. “She did a wonderful job of laying out all of the troubles across every possible area.”
The memo also shares Arway’s account of why privatization fails families with special needs children.
“Genuinely, parents don’t understand that they are not getting their full special education rights, they are not getting their full IEP (Individualized Education Program), when they accept a voucher,” said Arway. “I think they are, for a lack of a better word, duped, that a private school is better, that the city schools cannot provide what their child needs because that’s what they hear in the news.”
Murray hopes the memo will persuade her Senate colleagues to commit to investing in public schools and see the truth about privatization and vouchers.
“Such programs, as proposed and implemented, lack accountability and transparency, force students and families to give up their rights, and make it harder to educate students in public schools,” argues Murray. “Instead, parents deserve real public school choices when it comes to their children’s education, including the choice to attend a high-quality neighborhood public school.”