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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10 Reasons vouchers are a bad idea

With an assist from, the Keyston State Education Coalition, from

1. Vouchers divert resources from public education but do not adequately reduce costs. When a student leaves a school district to enroll in a nonpublic school, the district's costs associated with that student do not just disappear. Students typically do not exit the school district in neat groups of 30 nor are they all from the same grade or class. Therefore, school districts are unable to reduce certain fixed costs necessary in the operation of a school – transportation, utilities, debt service and employee payroll, to name a few.

2. Parental satisfaction is not an adequate measure of student or school success or accountability. There are many factors to consider when assessing a school's achievement level and progress. A 2005 study on charter schools by the Economic Policy Institute* suggests that parents may choose a school for other than academic reasons.

3. There is inconclusive evidence that students who utilize vouchers automatically make better strides in private or parochial schools than they would in public school. Studies conducted in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.* have not found that students utilizing vouchers make any better progress in private or parochial schools than they did while in public school.

4. Private and parochial schools are NOT open to every child. It is disingenuous to claim that vouchers open the door to "parental choice" when in fact the choice is really being given to the nonpublic school. Private and parochial schools are able to decide if they want to accept vouchers, and then how many and which students they want to admit. Public schools accept and educate students regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, academic performance and special needs. Nonpublic schools are able to "cherry pick” the students they would welcome into their school.

5. Parents have choices now if they are not satisfied with their children's public school education. Pennsylvania currently offers alternatives to the traditional brick-and-mortar public school. Parents may enroll their children in charter schools and pay no tuition. They also may choose to educate their child in private or parochial schools or home school.

6. Vouchers eliminate accountability to taxpayers. The implementation of a school tuition voucher program violates the fundamental principle of "no taxation without representation." This pillar of democracy is based on the tenet that where public dollars are being spent, taxpayers have both the right and responsibility to hold an institution, and those officials in charge of an institution, accountable for that fiduciary duty. Voters are able to hold local school board members accountable through elections, but have no way to hold private schools accountable for use of these public funds.

7. Pennsylvanians do not support tuition vouchers. According to the Pennsylvania Omnibus survey conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin and Marshall College in 2010 (see details of the findings on What does the public say?), two out of three Pennsylvanians oppose using tax dollars for school vouchers, with opposition being held across political parties, all regions of the state, age groups and races.

8. Nonpublic schools lack transparency. Private and parochial schools are not required to make their financial records, academic achievement data or board of trustees meetings open to scrutiny as publics are under the provisions of the Right-to-Know Law and Sunshine Law. Without these and other such accountability measures, there are no safeguards against fraudulent, unethical or illegal behavior or misuse of funds.

9. Nonpublic schools do not hold students to the same rigorous academic standards as public schools. Students enrolled in nonpublic schools are not subjected to state-approved academic standards and assessments. Further, private and parochial schools are not required to publish student achievement data, so often consistent and comparable data is unavailable.

10. Creating a separate education system does nothing to address inadequacies or issues with the existing public school system. Rather than remove a select few, disadvantaged students from a school that may be underperforming, why not assist public schools to correct or increase their capacity to correct problems so that all students are able to thrive? Pennsylvania’s constitutional directive to maintain a “thorough and efficient system of public education” must not be ignored. Efforts and resources should be focused on building up, not diminishing, public education in Pennsylvania.

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