Magazine article Church & State

Failed Experiment: It's Time to Shut Down D.C.'S Voucher Program

Magazine article Church & State

Failed Experiment: It's Time to Shut Down D.C.'S Voucher Program

Article excerpt

In 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives pushed through a school voucher program for Washington, D.C., with the vote occurring at night when many members were absent. The Senate concurred, and President George W. Bush signed it into law.

The plan, which paid for tuition at religious and other private schools, was pitched as a five-year "experiment" just to see if vouchers would boost academic performance. It didn't take long to get the answer to that question: Study after study showed that vouchers failed to help the targeted population.

A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Education, for example, found "no conclusive evidence" that students receiving vouchers showed improved math and reading test scores over their public school peers. The experiment, it seems, had failed.

So the voucher plan was shut down in 2009, right? Nope. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used the scheme as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations with President Barack Obama. The misbegotten program gained new life and is still stumbling along today.

A recent Washington Post study of private schools taking part in the plan uncovered a litany of disturbing facts. Vouchers are pegged at $8,000$12,000, so they don't even come close to paying the annual tuition at exclusive private schools in the region--most of which don't want voucher students anyway.

As a result, vouchers in D.C. have become a taxpayer-funded bailout for struggling Catholic schools or a prop for an array of schools offering questionable education. …

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