One of our union’s perennial priorities is fighting efforts to privatize our public education system, whether through the expansion of charter schools or new voucher schemes.
Key Facts: Private School Vouchers
Don’t be fooled by the euphemism of “school choice.”
We already have “school choice” in our public schools, through magnet schools, fine arts academies, college-preparatory and early-college high schools, Montessori education, dual-language campuses, and community schools — as well as a full-range of programs and services to support the needs of our increasingly diverse students.
- Private school vouchers, sometimes called “savings accounts,” drain taxpayer money from already underfunded public schools.
- Private schools are not accountable to the public via an elected board.
- Private schools are not required to adhere to federal or state education standards, such as special education laws.
- Private schools do not serve all comers as public schools must do and can choose to reject any students for any reason.
- Vouchers only act as a subsidy for the wealthy who are already sending their students to private schools.
The Ins & Outs of School Privatization
In January 2023, Dr. David DeMatthews, an education policy professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert on school privatization, joined us for a deep dive into the history and effects of school voucher schemes.
Vouchers eliminate transparency and accountability
Experience in other states offering special education or other voucher schemes has revealed that
the money generally does not suffice for placement in a high-caliber private school for low-income
or students from low-income households and those who receive special education services.
As a result, the beneficiaries are predominantly wealthy families who use the public voucher to “top up” or subsidize their private spending.
Types of Vouchers
Over the years, voucher proponents have come up with a number of ways to disguise their programs. But any version of vouchers would undermine the ability of public schools to provide a quality education for all children, as required by our state Constitution.
- In addition to a typical voucher, tuition tax credits accomplish the same goal by giving corporations tax relief in return for their funding of private school scholarships.
- Opportunity scholarships are another voucher version that the Legislature has previously attempted. This form of voucher was sold as a way of helping families in low-income households access taxpayer-funded private “scholarships” that are not based on either merit or scholarship. This is simply a term used instead of a “voucher” or “grant” and another way of describing what is ultimately a taxpayer-funded subsidy.
- Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) stipends are the latest version passed by the Legislature, which sends tax dollars directly to parents to use for private services.
Vouchers are a particularly bad bargain for students with disabilities
Parents are often unaware, until it’s too late, that educational services for students with disabilities provided at a private school are not required to live up to the high standards of federal law required at public schools.
- Private providers do not have to employ appropriately certified teachers.
- They do not have to provide due process in case of disagreement about the level of services a student requires.
- They do not have to assure their students of an inclusive placement in the least restrictive environment for their education.
- Parents have legal rights and recourse in the public school setting that they lose in private schools.
Vouchers give choices to private schools, not parents
- Unlike public schools, which must accept all comers, private schools decide if they want to admit a students and how many students they want to admit. Kids who cost the most to educate, like at-risk students, are among those least likely to be accepted by private schools.
- If a private school chooses to admit a voucher student, the school can later reject that same student for reasons that would be unlawful at a public school.
- Educational research demonstrates that voucher programs in other states have had either negligible or negative impacts on students in comparison with results achieved in public schools with similar student populations.
Oppose private school vouchers in all forms, including tuition tax credits, so-called special education savings accounts, and direct payments to parents to use for private services.
Fully support the public school choices we already have with equitable and adequate funding.