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by Brian Washington
As if parents needed more proof that voucher schemes are bad for students, a new report is adding more fuel to the flame. It comes at a time when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a host of conservative gubernatorial candidates this year are wielding vouchers, which give families your tax dollars to spend on private schools, as a weapon for dismantling public education.
The Center for American Progress recently released a study, based on the District of Columbia’s voucher program, concluding that the overall effect of it on students is the equivalent of 68 fewer days of schooling than they otherwise would have received had they just stayed in a traditional public school.
In other words, the students who participated in the D.C. voucher program lost more than one-third of a year of learning,” reads the report. “To be clear, translating this effect into days of learning is an approximation intended to help assess relative impact. In this case, 68 days lost is clearly substantial lost ground for students participating in the D.C. voucher program.
Erin Roth, one of the authors of the report, stands by the findings, even though she admits 68 days might not be an exact representation of the amount of time lost, but it’s very close.
“We’re not talking about a student missing a week of learning,” said Roth. “We’re talking about a substantial learning loss…more than a third of the school year.”
Roth says the analysis done by her and her colleagues builds on voucher evaluations in Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., which all show that students participating in these program fared far worse than their peers in public schools—especially in math.
“It is shocking for us to see policy initiatives (on vouchers) proceed in multiple states when we have such strong evidence of multiple impacts for students across several different statewide studies of private school voucher programs,” said Roth.
Roth says her findings go against the narrative being peddled by DeVos and those politicians who support her privatization agenda—that public schools are failing.
“It definitely does,” said Roth. “I think what we’re seeing is improvement in public schools across the last few decades.”
So what should parents take from all this? According to Roth, the news is pretty simple and chilling.
“I would share with any parent who asked that these impacts are relative to the experience your child would have in their traditional public schools,” she said. “So relative to what they would learn and experience in a public school, they would be doing worse in a private school voucher program.”