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School vouchers

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School vouchers are certificates issued by a government which parents may use to pay for private school for their children. Tax money would then fund these students' private school education. They may also be used to reimburse the parents for homeschool expenses.

Contents

School choice in Sweden and the Netherlands

Sweden introduced a voucher system in 1992 which requires that students using vouchers are accepted on a first-come first-served basis.[1] In the Netherlands, public and private schools have been given financial equity since 1917, which resulted in a de facto voucher system.[2]

School choice in the US

Possibly the biggest problem with this is tax money being used to fund religious education. A big no-no in the United States where separation of church and state is supposed to be a thing. This has already occurred in states that have or had voucher programs such as Florida, where public money was funding schools with educational curricula including creationism.[3][4] No surprise, then, that the religious right and their wealthy donors are major proponents of "school choice" (read: tax money for religious indoctrination).[5][6]

Proponents argue that competition would force public schools to perform to keep up. Private school students generally perform better on reading and math tests; however, the U.S. Department of Education found that when adjusted for factors such as race and gender, private schools perform about as well as public schools.[7]

Opponents argue that any difference comes from the fact that private schools tend to reject applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds or with behavioral problems, while public are required by law to take anyone. In other words, it's not a shock that schools full of rich white kids with private tutors have better results. "School choice" also can be seen as de facto segregation, especially in the South-Eastern United States.[8]

Legal decisions

In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld a voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio in the case of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.[9] This initiated what is known as the "private choice test":

  • The program must have a valid secular purpose,
  • Aid must go to parents and not to the schools,
  • A broad class of beneficiaries must be covered,
  • The program must be neutral with respect to religion, and
  • There must be adequate nonreligious options.

However, a number of state supreme courts have ruled against vouchers that would fund religious schools, such as in Florida[10] or they have been voted down by referendum such as in California, Michigan,[11] and Utah.[12]

Footnotes

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