Monday, April 23, 2007

Voucher Myths and Facts

I didn't write this, but I endorse it and I like it. It's clear and concise and research-based. It was compiled by a Utah group opposing vouchers, but you will see links for more detailed information/studies.


Myth #1: Taxpayers will save money under a voucher system.


The claim that vouchers will save the state money rely crucially on the assumption that a large number of students will switch from public to private schools, easing overcrowding and reducing construction costs and fixed expenses. Is there any historical basis for this assumption? The dramatic shifts in student enrollment promised by voucher and tuition tax credit activists have never materialized when voucher or tax credit systems are put in place, and NO STATE HAS SAVED MONEY BY PROVIDING VOUCHERS OR TUITION TAX CREDITS.

A Utah State University study, "Estimating Demand and Supply Response to Tuition Tax Credits for Private School Tuition in Utah" (November 2004) estimated that fewer than one-half of the parents projected to use tuition tax credits would be "switchers" from public to private schools. In addition, the study states "Historically, the parent decisions to send their children to private schools in Utah has little, if anything, to do with price." In other words, a parent's decision to send a child to private school is unlikely to be changed by the availability of public subsidies.

Regardless of the number of students initially switching from public to private schools, each year more students who use vouchers will be those WHO NEVER ATTENDED PUBLIC SCHOOLS and who NEVER WOULD HAVE ATTENDED PUBLIC SCHOOLS. When the program is completely phased in, the state will be providing vouchers for every private school student in the state. With 96% of Utah students attending public schools-and enrollment projected to increase to 600, 000 by 2012-Utah taxpayers can expect to spend money on new schools AND on subsidizing private schools. Legislative fiscal analysts project no savings from the voucher program. By their estimates, vouchers will COST THE TAXPAYERS MORE THAN $450 MILLION OVER THE NEXT THIRTEEN YEARS.

Myth #2: Private school students perform better than their public school counterparts.


All objective studies (such as the 2006 U.S. Department of Education study and the 2001 U.S. General Accounting Office study) find NO APPRECIABLE DIFFERENCES in the performance of public and private school students.

Myth #3: A healthy dose of competition will improve public schools.


A number of studies funded by voucher advocates have PROJECTED improvements in public schools due to competition with voucher schools. However, such studies generally factor out any other reforms-and any other motivations for reforms-in comparable schools or districts.

In Milwaukee, for example, pro-voucher studies credit voucher competition for improvements in milwaukee Public Schools. THese claims ignore the state-supported Student Achievement Guarantee in education (SAGE) program, which provided resources to reduce class size and enhance professional development.

Two decades ago, Chicago's public school system was considered among the worst in the country. After investing in pre-school programs, after-school programs, and summer school, the city is now widely recognized as having made great strides in student achievement.

In short, it's research-based reforms, not competition, that make the difference.

Myth #4: Parental choice is the same as accountability.


Despite the right and ability of parents to remove their children from private schools, many dysfunctional voucher schools have continued to operate year after year. Schools in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Florida provide frightening examples of abuse, fraud, and academic inadequacy. For a look at some of the ways tax dollars have been squandered, see the National School Boards Association's report "Why Vouchers Are a Bad Idea." (Find the report on the web at

Utah's voucher program requires NO ACCOUNTABILITY from private schools for the public funds they receive. It provides fewer protections (for students and taxpayers) than the scandal-ridden programs in other states.


John Roylance said...

Some more facts,

Azúcar said...

John ROYLANCE? I haven't seen you in ten years.

You know, for a state that is as big about accountability as we profess to be, I can't believe that the 'no accountability for public funds' fact didn't make more inroads. I really hope the population sinks this bill on referendum.

compulsive writer said...

I love how you clarify objective studies. I was horrified when the Herald ran a pro-voucher article on their front-page once regarding a study on vouchers that was financed by the three biggest anti-public ed entities in the state and nation (that's another issue--don't you ever wonder why all the big financial backing for vouchers is from out of state, and why they care about schools in Utah?). Yet the Herald based the whole story on this study as if it were a non-biased objective and authoritative study. Which it most certainly was not.

Another myth I love is that private schools and therefore voucher money are available to all kids. Why they don't actively discourage or prohibit anyone from attending, they can be, by nature, less accessible to the poor. There is no public transportation. There are no subsidized lunches. For a family who possibly only has one car or whose only parent works two jobs to make ends meet and cannot transport his or her child to school or afford school lunch, these can be real deterents.

Lyle said...

Thanks Lisa for the addional info.

John Roylance said...

Well, I think the only solution is to become Canada. The state should just take care of us so we can golf and stuff. Well so I can golf and stuff.

All I know is the current system is broke and needs to be fixed.

Azúcar said...

I don't think the public schools are broken. There, I said it.

We live in UTAH, a vertitable paradise of public education. Husband is from Florida, if you want to see what a REAL quagmire is in public education, move there. Sorry, until the local high school's principal is shot and the vice principal stabbed to death, the school won't be broken. Until your child is beat up for wrecking the curve in a class, the school isn't broken.

Everything that is wrong or challenging in Utah schools can be fixed from the local level with parental involvement in the schools. The very idea that there is such a debate in this state portends very well for the future of public education.

christopher clark said...

I agree with you 1000%, Carina. (is there any such number? I went to public schools!)

compulsive writer said...

Yes Carina! We are of the same mind on that one.

c jane said...

We (us 30 somethings) were incredibly blessed with the fruits of public schools. And today there are a lot of incredible schools along the Wasatch front (I've worked for two of them.)
However, while I agree with Azucar's statement that our schools aren't broken, I think that our money management is.
I've seen the District spend huge amounts of money on programs and on training teachers to do those programs (which is fine)only to dissolve them in a very short time period.
I think we'd be so much better off, taking the money that the State Legislature gives us and putting it directly in to the classrooms. Why not give a qualified teacher the right to teach based on skill, with generous funds to help?
We lost a couple of amazing teachers because of this issue. It becomes depressing. After watching my friends quit, I too became disillusioned.
And perhaps you are right, that the vouchers aren't going to help anything either.

c jane said...

I'd also love a discussion on what parental involvement means.
It is tricky to work with parents because each of them wants to have a say in their child's education, which is fine, but it is hard to please everyone.
The most frustrating experiences I had was in trying to appease parents.
For an example: One parent volunteered every year to read for 30 minutes to the class each week. The teacher, wanting to be sensitive to the parental involvement had to figure out how to work that in with all of the hours of curriculum (mandated by the district) that had to be taught.
There are so many parents with so many ideas and opinions.
So does parental involvement means coming in and grading papers? Or does it mean coming in a supervising your child's teacher from time to time?
I'd love to hear about what is it like to be a parent.

christopher clark said...

It's Lisa, not Christopher.

Courtney, I agree with your issue regarding District use of funds. As a public school teacher, I, too have seen dumb District choices. I think this is a different issue, however (and a separate blog entry--yeah!) But, might I note that at least the District is held to accountability and those successes/mistakes are public (read: private schools/voucher recipients: NO ACCOUNTABILITY=more opportunity for corruption)

As far as parental involvement is concerned, I'm with you: teachers need to be given the right tools to do their job most effectively. That's why I contribute a yearly contribution to each of my children's specific classrooms, and encourage others to as well. That's money very well spent--and the teacher usually lists exactly where the money will go.

As a teacher in middle school and high school, I never got any parents to volunteer. It seems to diminish with every grade K-12. Having said that, I would have never let the parent dictate how my class would be lead--that's my job, but you're right--you don't want to discourage involvement. I think the most effective way to lead your classroom is to have a list of what you need volunteers for, and sign up. Parents and teachers need to be respectful of each other.

Azúcar said...

I agree with your cjane, just with what we've seen in the past couple months, there are some serious inefficiencies that need to be addressed before throwing more money at the problem. We need qualified administrators as well as teachers.

Really, I view my parental role in education is to back the teacher. Again, my experience is 9-12 grade. It's a parent-teacher compact that I, as a parent, will make sure my child is doing the work they need to do to succeed in the class. My parents and teachers were usually a united front.

c jane said...

Thanks for the responses (sorry I thread jacked a little--I meant to say that sometimes I have a hard time siding with public schools because of the discrepancies, but if vouchers moves us farther away from correcting these,then I can totally see why I'd oppose them.)

compulsive writer said...

Part of the problem is that a lot of the problems--including mismanagement of funds happen at the top, but their ill effects end up most hurting both students and their teachers (can I tell you teachers have had more pay cuts since the economy turned and legislators started sending more money?) By the same token a lot of the legislation that happens in the name of improving education and sticking it to the UEA ends up hurting kids and teachers in the classroom.

pflower10 said...

Why do they want to stick it to the UEA??? And Who wants to do the sticking? I don't know about this issue.

I wish we could fix it from the top but it seems that when we get a new top they end up being all the same.

pflower10 said...

I DO help in the classroom in whatever capacity the teacher needs me to. On some days I correct papers, on others I help the students with their paperwork or give them individual tests and I've even decorated the classroom board and I plan on doing it year after year whenever I can.

KelleyH said...

Amen, amen, amen, Lisa,

I am a taxpayer and public school teacher in the state of Texas. I oppose voucher programs for the same reason I oppose charter schools that funnel state money away from public schools. My wife taught briefly for a charter school, and we saw first hand the corruption and lack of accountability of charter schools. Voucher programs are no different. If one is unhappy with the level of performance of public schools, how does funneling money away from public schools help?

La Yen said...

I vote that we start a "Private school" and enroll our kids in it and take the voucher money and go on fancy cruises while we "teach" our kids to do piece work for the Mary Kate and Ashley brand.

Julie said...

Reading this makes me even more FOR vouchers.

LaDawn said...

I love the voucher system and disagree with you on every point. Vouchers are the best!!