Vouchers! Boo Hiss! Or Snooze…

This week’s School of Thought column at TIME again goes with the “5 myths” meme.  This week I look at school vouchers, which are reemerging as an issue in many places and on Capitol Hill:

One of the most contentious budget debates this year may be over something the president did not include in his 2012 spending plan — school vouchers. Now more often called “scholarships,” vouchers have been debated for decades, but support for these initiatives is on the rise.

Let’s start with D.C. After years of discussion, Congress established a plan in 2004 to give 1,700 students in Washington a voucher of up to $7,500 to attend private and religious schools in the city as alternatives to the frequently lousy neighborhood schools. The program was controversial from the start — it was the first federal funding for vouchers in three decades. But in 2009, under intense pressure from the teachers unions, Congress and the Administration began to dismantle the program and no new students are participating today. New Speaker of the House John Boehner says restoring the program is a top priority.

Meanwhile, there are rumblings about voucher proposals emerging in states around the country including Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida. In Douglas County, Colorado members of the school board want to create a voucher program just for that county. Meanwhile states like Louisiana, Ohio, and Florida already have established voucher programs and the once-landmark and controversial voucher program in Milwaukee now serves more than 20,000 students with little fanfare.

What does the renewed push for vouchers mean for our education system? That is of course a matter of debate. Proponents and opponents make a lot of overblown claims about what vouchers will or won’t do. But with a number of programs already in force, we actually know quite a bit about how they work. So, if this debate comes to a school system near you, here are five claims every parent should be skeptical about:

Read the entire thing here.

4 Replies to “Vouchers! Boo Hiss! Or Snooze…”

  1. Interesting read! I just found this at Time.com. I’m glad there’s at least one blog out there devoted to education. Improving education should be top priority in America. Your article stated that vouchers do little to improve education. I assume that’s according to test results. There was a good article at NPR.org about Finland. Did you read that? It proposed many education reforms, but of course they’d be costly, and our government’s looking to cut the budget. What do you think of it? Is any of it applicable to the US? Here’s a link: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/28/133301331/the-new-republic-the-u-s-could-learn-from-finland

  2. In NYC, they might need more vouchers with the Mayor’s plan to cut 6,000 teaching jobs:www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2011/02/17/nyc_mayors_prelim_budget_plan_cut_teaching_jobs/

    NEW YORK—New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is warning his preliminary budget will contain difficult news following federal and state budget cuts.

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    Under the preliminary plan, to be released Thursday, the mayor calls for cutting more than 6,000 public school teaching jobs through layoffs and attrition.

  3. In Douglas County Colorado (mentioned in the Time Magazine article), the newly elected school board is using choice (vouchers & charter schools) as a red herring. What they’re really after is the teacher’s union, even though the AFT in Douglas County is really union-light. Douglas County is consistently the highest-performing school district in Colorado, and the County has the 6th highest median household income in America. We don’t need vouchers to help failing schools; we don’t have any.

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