Last July I posted a Medley about vouchers. I wrote,
It has never been about poor kids…
The “money follows the child” philosophy has been a decades long excuse to divert tax money to private corporations and to provide tax breaks to individuals who send their children to private and religious schools.
Since then, we’ve learned that most Americans don’t like the concept of public money going to private schools. The 2015 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Towards Public Schools, once again showed that the majority of people (Republicans excluded) in the U.S. are against using public money for religious schools.
Nationally, 57% of Americans don’t want public money to be spent on children going to private schools. Less than 1/3 are in favor of it. The fact that most private schools in Indiana which take vouchers are religious schools, is even more disturbing. Private schools don’t have to follow the same rules that public schools have to follow. They don’t need to accept every student. They don’t need to take students with disabilities or students who are English Language Learners, and they can use public dollars funneled through vouchers to teach religion.
Diane Ravitch has repeatedly reminded us that
…voters have never approved a voucher plan.
A list of popular votes against vouchers is available in this post on Ravitch’s blog. A small sampling…
Nebraska 1970 Tax code vouchers 57-43 against
Maryland 1972 Vouchers 55-45 against
Michigan 1978 Vouchers 74-26 against
Washington, DC 1981 Tax code vouchers 89-11 against
Utah 1988 Tax code vouchers 70-30 against
Oregon 1990 Tax code vouchers 67-33 against
Colorado 1992 Vouchers 67-33 against
California 1993 Vouchers 70-30 against
Washington State 1996 Vouchers 64-36 against
Colorado 1998 Tax code vouchers 60-40 against
Michigan 2000 Vouchers 69-31 against
California 2000 Vouchers 71-29 against
Utah 2007 Vouchers 62-38 against
Florida 2012 Vouchers 55-45 against
Hawaii 2014 Vouchers 55-45 against
Since vouchers never got the support of the voters, “reformers” relied on state legislators to do the work for them.
Here is another Medley about Vouchers…with a nod to “choice” in general, and graphic about charters…
Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig
According to his website, “Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.”
In these blog entries Professor Heilig reminds us that “school choice” originated as a way to avoid integrating schools when Jim Crow was abolished. He also discusses the Chilean experiment with “choice” and how it ended up segregating students, giving advantages to wealthier students.
The push to extend voucher programs rests on the assumption that they will spur competition between public and private campuses, make schools more responsive to families and students, increase student achievement, and improve the effectiveness of all schools…The argument is as follows: Since school choice is already available to upper-class families through residential mobility or through enrollment in private schools, expanding this right to low-income families through vouchers reduces stratification as parental income becomes less important in determining who attends private schools…
In sum, this study demonstrates that, in a market where the voucher is distributed equally and to everyone, the final result is a complex scenario of education stratification where differences and segregation primarily functions as an advantage for high-SES students. Prior peer-reviewed research on vouchers in Chile, and the current study, demonstrate that specific family and student characteristics, as well as, the family/student´s area of residence jointly determine the spectrum of educational choices available in a universal voucher system…
…implementation of a large scale, universal school voucher plan may imply various unintended negative effects on equity of education opportunity and the social integration of students within an education system. Such inequities not only operate between schools and school sectors, but also between districts.
My first article with Dr. Jaime Portales was discussed in the post New Research: Vouchers Increase Segregation and Offer Benefits to the Few. In that study published in the peer-reviewed journal Education Policy Analysis Archives we found that in a market where the voucher is distributed equally and to everyone, the final result is a complex scenario of education stratification where differences and segregation primarily functions as an advantage for high-SES students…
There are winners and losers in a market. Stratification and inequality is magnified in a voucher market for students without various forms of capital.
Privatizers began their push for vouchers in Indiana by saying that it would improve education for everyone through “competition.” They claimed that it would help poor students escape from “failing” schools. They claimed that it would improve public and private education.
None of those excuses are used any longer. Diverting money from public schools hasn’t improved public education…instead it has forced public schools to do more with less. Competition doesn’t work in public education and shouldn’t be allowed…because when there is a competition someone loses. Instead of helping a few students “escape” from poor performing public schools we should have improved those public schools, worked to eliminate poverty, and equitably funded the public schools. That means that schools with more needs get more. In contrast, the last legislative session made sure that schools with high poverty students lost money, while those with wealthier students got more.
In Wisconsin, approximately 79% of the students who received a taxpayer-subsidized voucher in 2013 were already attending private schools. This means taxpayer dollars are not being used to advance public education, but instead are being used to subsidize the education of a small number of students already enrolled in private schools at the expense of students in public schools in an attempt to further privatize education.
Not only do voucher schools exhaust needed resources in public education, these schools also fail to serve all students. In Wisconsin, advocates for people with disabilities, including the ACLU and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have raised concerns that Wisconsin’s school choice program, either tacitly or explicitly, allows voucher schools to discriminate against students with disabilities in their admission policies.
Students no longer have to attend their local public schools at all. They no longer have to be attending a “failing” (aka school with high needs) school. They no longer have to do anything but ask for public tax money to spend on religious indoctrination.
An enrollment cap from the first two years was lifted as was a requirement that students must first try out a public school in their neighborhood before they used a scholarship. New rules also allowed siblings, students qualifying for special education services and students who live within the boundary of a failing school to use vouchers.
Vouchers were born in Milwaukee in 1990 and grew slowly for more than two decades. Wisconsin expanded vouchers to other parts of the state in 2013. Ohio also has a large program that has been expanded statewide. Some states, notably Florida, have voucher programs that target particular groups of students, such as disabled children.
Vouchers, billed by the state as “choice scholarships,” are controversial. Proponents say they expand quality options for poor children, and opponents say the state shouldn’t use tax dollars to pay for private, mostly religious, schools while draining the coffers of public schools.
“The continued growth of Indiana’s school voucher program is proof that parents want school choice,” said the institute’s president, Betsy Wiley.
Peter Greene tells us that no one really wants choice. What he means is that parents want what they want — good schools for their children. The choice belongs to the legislature which ignores the high poverty in the state. It belongs to the corporate reformers who skim students avoiding those who are expensive to teach. It belongs to religious organizations who see a way to get public money for their religious teaching…public tax money into which they do not contribute.
What would happen if we took all the time and energy and money poured into pushing charter/choice and focused it on turning the local schools into schools of excellence.
Some reformsters are going to claim we tried that. I don’t believe that’s true, for a variety of reasons that would stretch this post from Too Long to Way Too Long.
Some folks have decided that our model for school reform should be like a guy who finds his car filled up with fast food wrappers and in need of new tires– so instead of working on the car, he goes out and buys three new cars. It’s a waste of resources– and he can only drive one car, anyway. School choice and charter systems have turned out to be hella expensive, costing not only money but community ties and stability, and only rarely delivering excellence– and that only for a small percentage of students.
Of course, it’s not just in Indiana…vouchers are spreading all over the country. Even in those places where voters have rejected voucher programs, vouchers are being introduced through state legislators bought and paid for by lobbyists for corporate “reform” and religious organizations.
Most states with voucher programs limit participation to students with disabilities or from low-income families. Nevada’s law, by contrast, is unprecedented because all of the state’s 450,000 K-12 public schoolchildren are eligible to take the money to whatever private school they choose. The law also does not limit how much public school funding may be siphoned for private and religious schools.
I think it’s appropriate to quote our second president…
“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” — John Adams
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
Click here to sign the petition.
For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.