Magazine article Church & State

Failed Experiment: It's Time to Shut Down School Voucher Schemes

Magazine article Church & State

Failed Experiment: It's Time to Shut Down School Voucher Schemes

Article excerpt

Advocates of government subsidies for religious and other private schools have been aggressively pushing for vouchers on and off since the 1950s.

Competition between public and private schools (including religious schools), they claimed, would spur reform and push academic achievement northward. In the dog-eat-dog marketplace of education's brave new world, new schools would spring up and insist on excellence

It took some time, but eventually a few states did approve public funding for voucher plans. Milwaukee's plan has been in place since the early 1990s. Cleveland and Washington, D.C., have plans as well.

So we can now test the claims of voucher advocates. How have they fared?

Poorly.

Objective studies of the Milwaukee and Cleveland plans have shown voucher students doing no better academically than their public school counterparts. D.C.'s program, foisted on the city by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress, is far short of meeting its targeted goals.

In Milwaukee and Cleveland, new schools did indeed spring up. Unfortunately, many of them are fly-by-night academies of dubious educational quality that seek to cash in on the voucher largesse. Such scams are an inevitable consequence of a lightly regulated market.

The public has also shown no interest in vouchers. Every time the concept has appeared on a state ballot, voters have soundly rejected vouchers. From liberal California to conservative Utah, the American people have said they don't want a patchwork system of private and religious schools funded with tax dollars that remain unaccountable to the taxpayer. …

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