School Vouchers To Be Revived In D.C.
School vouchers are back, at least in D.C., adding fuel to the fire in the debate about parental choice when it comes to sending one's children to school. The voucher program had experienced trouble in the past in light of studies showing that it did not lead to higher student achievement and was not effective. For the next 5 years $20 million will be allocated annually to offer vouchers to low-income students (and perhaps middle-income students) toward private school tuition. What effect will this have on public schools? How will this impact special education?
The argument is the same as with charter schools - the more money allocated to benefit these programs, the less money the public schools receive. Special education often takes a big hit when money is tight because schools are then unable to afford the providers needed to deliver services. Those providers who are on payroll are stretched thin among a number of schools and are assigned more students than they can handle. Like charter schools, the voucher program threatens public school education. The theory is that public schools will be forced to compete and improve in response but the reality is that schools become paralyzed due to a lack of funds. Schools will have a much tougher time improving their programs when there is even less money coming in.
The intentions behind the voucher program are good but it's not clear what the voucher program can do for the lowest-income families. Low-income parents wishing to send their children to private schools likely will still have to contribute the difference between the value of the voucher and the total cost of the program. The poorest families would not be able to take full advantage of the voucher opportunity and would be stuck in public school. The end result is that the public school population becomes poorer and poorer and studies have shown the positive correlation between poverty and low academic performance - the poorer the students, the lower the academic performance.