Private-school vouchers

Private-school voucher legislation would authorize the use of taxpayer dollars to send children to private and religious schools. Tuition tax credits accomplish the same goal by giving corporations tax relief in return for their funding of private-school scholarships. Both versions of vouchers would undermine the ability of public schools to provide for a quality education for all children as required by the state constitution. Both would divert taxpayer dollars from already underfunded public schools to unaccountable private schools, which do not serve all comers as public schools must do.

  • Vouchers eliminate public accountability. Vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that do not face state-approved academic standards, do not make budgets public, do not adhere to open meetings and records laws, do not publicly report on student achievement, and do not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal laws, including special-education laws.

Vouchers are a particularly bad bargain for students with disabilities. Parents are often unaware, until it’s too late, that private educational services for students with disabilities are not required to live up to the high standards of federal law for services to such students. 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 recourse in the public setting that they lose in private schools.

Experience in other states offering special-education vouchers has revealed that the money generally does not suffice for placement in a high-caliber private school. As a result, the beneficiaries typically are not low-income families but rather are predominantly high-income families who use the public voucher to “top up” their private spending.

  • Vouchers give choices to private schools, not parents. Private schools decide if they want to accept vouchers, and then how many students they want to admit. Kids who cost the most to educate are among those least likely to be accepted by private schools. And even if a voucher student does gain acceptance into a private school, the school can later reject him or her for numerous reasons—unlike public schools, which must accept all comers.
  • We already have school choice in our public schools—magnet schools, fine arts academies, college-preparatory and early-college high schools, Montessori education, dual language campuses, community schools, and a full range of programs and services to support the needs of our increasingly diverse students. We need to support these choices with equitable and adequate funding.
  • Educational research demonstrates that voucher programs in other states have had impacts ranging from negligible to negative in comparison with results achieved in public schools with similar student populations.

Action Needed

Oppose private-school vouchers in all forms, including tuition tax credits and so-called education savings accounts.