Views on Vouchers
January 4, 2019
The school vouchers that are available in 14 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to choose the school their children will attend using public funds. Vouchers redistribute funds typically allocated to a school district from state education funds and give them to individual families to help pay for private school tuition. Many argue that the voucher system creates a competitive education mar- ket, providing monetary incentives that promote the improvement of schools. Others question if it is a proper use of taxpayers’ money.
States have the freedom to establish laws relating to the public schools under their jurisdiction. This includes creating a voucher program. For example, Utah has a limited school voucher program that is available only to students with disabilities. In addition to other requirements, the students must have attended a public school prior to requesting a school voucher. Other states have different requirements for their voucher programs. In Maine, students are not required to have attended public school before requesting school vouchers.
In Oregon, school vouchers are not an option under any circumstances. However, Oregon provides alternatives such as charter schools and magnet schools, which are publicly funded. In 2014, the Education Equity Emergency Act was proposed in the state legislature. If the act had been approved, there would have been the option to create educational school vouchers for private school tuition, and other educational expenses in Oregon. The majority of Oregon’s students go to a public school assigned to them based on their zip code. Jenna Altig from Young Conservatives Club and Lilli Morrish from Young Democrats Club argue their beliefs about school vouchers below.
While conceptually, the educational freedom promised by school vouchers seems promising, the reality is that in application, the voucher system is completely unable to deliver on its lofty goals. Vouchers run counter to religious liberty as promised in the First Amendment: they divert public taxpayer money to religious institutions as 75% of private schools are religiously affiliated according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, these public funds are supporting educational institutions that are free to deny admission to students based on any criteria they like, including religion, disability or language ability. The majority of citizens don’t even want this program. Since 1967, 23 states’ constituents have failed measures for voucher programs and tax aid to private schools. The greatest issue with vouchers, however, is that they undermine opportunities for low-income and minority students. Capitalism is fun in theory, but most voucher programs do NOT cover the full cost of tuition and fees for private schooling, and also don’t take into account commute time and cost, ignoring accessional freedom promised by ability. Only high-income students get to take part in this inherently flawed and exclusive capitalist fantasy of “educational competition,” while students in poverty are further pushed to the margins. When vouchers are implemented, local public schools – so-called “bad” schools – are still often the only accessible educational institutions for low-income communities, and then they are promptly shut down. Instead of giving these students opportunities, vouchers are undermining the very institutions they rely on. The solution is to help struggling schools and taking into consideration why they are struggling, instead of abandoning at-risk communities. Voucher programs enable politicians to ignore real educational issues like class size, funding, and teacher salary. There is no valid reason to siphon money away from the public schools that 91% of US students attend, according to the Department of Education, and pour it into unregulated religious institutions that do nothing to increase educational accessibility.
Fourteen states in our nation have 25 successful school voucher programs. Vouchers are a way that parents can determine their child’s educational path to help them succeed in their future. Bringing voucher programs to more public schools would significantly improve the public school’s quality of education because they would have to compete with private schools in order to keep students attending that school. Americans already pay taxes that go toward public school education. Inadequate schools lose money and will eventually close because they are unable to meet the standards required. That leaves Americans paying unnecessary taxes for schools that aren’t fulfilling educational needs. People may argue that voucher programs are just another way to weed out the good schools from the bad, leading to the closure of more public schools. However, competition is the main baseline in the capitalist government that America has today. Forcing these schools to gain way for their government funding will create a better learning environment, and better education for lower and middle class students. Getting better education in areas of poverty, and allowing these students living in poverty to be a part of the voucher program, will help overcome racial and minority segregation. School vouchers will allow lower-income parents to get a better education for their kids without having to worry about racial segregation and violence in their learning environment in schools with low educational performance. According to The World Top 20 Projects, the United States’ educational system is ranked number 16 in the world. The United States has a very strong economy, but why can’t our public schools and education be just as strong? Making it more enjoyable and safer for all American kids to attend public schools or be a part of the voucher program will rapidly increase America’s educational performance like it has done in the Milwaukee and Cleveland schools. Voucher programs are not a waste of taxpayers’ money. They will help the youth of America educationally move forward and strengthen our nation.