The Case For School Vouchers

by R. Alan Harrop, Ph.D

In a recent article, I included school vouchers as one of five issues that the N. C. General Assembly should address in their next session. The purpose of this article is to provide more information about how important school vouchers have become over the past few years.

Most parents and citizens assume that the public school system, which is very well funded, is focused on teaching essential academic skills and is being successful. The reality of these assumptions could not be further from the truth. The academic achievement (ranking) of American public schools has continued to diminish so that now Americas’ school students rank 38th in math scores and 24th in science according to a Business Insider report in 2018. Since the school lockdowns the situation is most certainly worse. The national average expenditure per student in 2021-22 was $15,047 per student with North Carolina spending $11,651. The question becomes are we getting a good return on our expenditure? Assuredly not.

Another issue with public schools is the wide disparity between schools in the same district. Here in Craven County, the highest ranking Elementary School in math proficiency is 67% while the lowest is 10%. Why the wide disparity? Similar disparities exist for reading proficiency. Which school a child attends is crucial. According to recent data, home schooled children typically score 15 to 30 percent higher on standard achievement tests. The difference is even higher for Black children who achieve 23 to 40 percent higher than those in public schools.

Beyond academics however, is the increasing concern parents have about the Woke ideology prevalent in public schools. Critical Race Theory, demeaning America, transgender instruction and encouragement, and inappropriate sex education are increasing concerns of parents. Even though a school may deny specific classes on these topics, most teachers subscribe to these beliefs and consequently infuse their beliefs on their students through their daily interaction.

The bottom line is whether the parents or the government has the right to select the type of education that a child receives. If you believe the government has that right, then like most Leftists, you will support the public school system. If however, you believe that parents have that right then school vouchers are the only way to fairly allow parents to exercise that right. The state of Arizona recently passed legislation that allows parents the authority to direct the per student tax money to public, private, charter or homeschools. This should serve as a model for North Carolina. No reason not to. The question becomes whether the General Assembly has the will to take a stand on this critical issue.

Freedom,to be meaningful, must be exercised in all arenas of society. What can be more important than ensuring that the children of this country receive the best education possible?

Defunding Public Schools

On Wednesday, The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey celebrated the law providing universal school vouchers passed by the Arizona legislature in June. Needless to say, the teachers’ union and parents who are unaware of what our schools are teaching are up in arms.

The article reports:

Ducey touted the signature bill he signed in July that gives all Arizona parents the ability to take state money that would go to their local public school and instead use it for private school tuition or other education costs. The governor had a ceremonial signing at a central Phoenix Christian school that already gets large benefits from the state’s tax credit donation programs and existing school voucher program. But he celebrated the new universal voucher expansion, which has been a key goal during his eight years in office. A similar law with enrollment caps that passed in 2017 was rejected by 2/3 of the state’s voters the following year, but Ducey did not stop his voucher expansion plans.

Keep in mind the political leanings of the source I am using.

The article concludes:

Lewis (Beth Lewis, executive director of Save Our Schools Arizona) and other public school advocates say vouchers take money from an already underfunded public school system, while proponents herald the program as letting parents choose the best education for their children. Lewis contends the new voucher law could take away more than the new school funding lawmakers added this year, which neared $1 billion in ongoing and one-time cash. Under the new law, an estimated 60,000 private students and about 38,000 being homeschooled would immediately be eligible to take up to $7,000 per year. Some of this currently get vouchers and many already get money from groups like School Tuition Organizations that funnel tax credits to students. All 1.1 million students who attend traditional district and charter schools would also qualify to leave their public schools and get money to go to private schools. About a third already qualify, but only about 12,000 students statewide now use the system.

There is no reason the public schools shouldn’t compete on an even playing field. For too long they have been top heavy and inefficient–not to mention the garbage they are teaching our children. Academic achievement has declined in recent years in America, and I believe that healthy competition will bring it back. If the public schools start actually teaching our children reading, writing, and arithmetic, the students may return. Until that happens, parents should not be forced to put their children in failing schools. Make public schools earn their students.


A Program That Is Getting Results

The Washington Free Beacon posted an article today about the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the oldest voucher program in the United States. This program began in 1990. The program offers private school vouchers to low-income Milwaukee kids using a lottery system. The article reports that just 341 students participated in the program’s first year. Today, that figure is nearly 30,000 across 126 public schools.

The article reports:

Because it has been running for so long, the MPCP has been widely studied. Past analyses have found that it increases math scores (although not reading), as well as high-school graduation and college enrollment rates. Other voucher experiments have also shown encouraging results: A 2013 study found that Washington, D.C.’s voucher program increased graduation rates by 21 percentage points, while a 2015 analysis of New York’s voucher system saw an increase in college enrollment among students with black mothers.

The authors of the new paper looked at data on students from elementary school through ninth grade who were enrolled in Milwaukee private schools in 2006. They identified 2,727 MPCP students, then used a detailed methodology to “match” them to comparable students in the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system based on where they lived, their demographic information, their parents’ educational backgrounds, and other controls.

Having constructed their “treatment” and “control” groups, the researchers then looked at how each group faired in relation to pivotal achievement milestones: completing high school, ever enrolling in college, completing at least a year of college, and graduating from college.

The article concludes:

“MPCP students are more likely to enroll, persist, and have more total years in a four-year college than their MPS peers,” the authors write. “We also find evidence that MPCP students are significantly more likely to graduate from college, although that college completion finding is only statistically significant in our sample of students who entered the program in third through eighth grade.”

Specifically, MPCP students who were in ninth grade in 2006 were 6 percentage points more likely than their MPS peers to enroll in a four-year college—46 percent versus 40 percent. MPCP students who were in third through eighth grades were 4 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college, and 3 percentage points more likely to graduate (all effects statistically significant).

These results contribute to what the authors call “a growing body of evaluation results indicating that private school voucher programs positively affect student educational attainment.” They point in particular to a Florida program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the effects of which on graduation are “nearly identical.”

“The collective evidence in this paper indicates that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program tend to have higher levels of educational attainment than a carefully matched comparison group of Milwaukee Public School students,” the authors conclude. “The MPCP students are more likely to enroll, persist, and experience more total years in a four-year college.”

Obviously the children using the vouchers to attend private schools are getting a better education than the students in public schools. I would guess that children involved in the voucher program also have a higher level of parental involvement–one of the keys to success for students. The children involved in the voucher program probably also know that there may be penalties for not doing the work required. I suspect that discipline in the private schools is probably more prevalent than in public schools. Our public schools have become places where children are not held to an academic or behavior standard. The success of the children in the voucher programs is an indication of problems in our public schools.

Something Good Was Done In Washington Today

When I look at that headline, I am reminded of all the admonitions to reporters, “If a dog bites a man, it’s not a story, if a man bites a dog, it’s a story.” However, something good was done in Washington recently.

The Hill is reporting today that John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman have announced that a deal has been reached to implement a renewal and expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

The article reports:

The private school voucher initiative in the nation’s capital is a top priority of Boehner’s, and the agreement comes after the Speaker and Lieberman complained that President Obama’s decision to zero out funding for the program in his latest budget contradicted a law he signed in 2011. Boehner had successfully attached legislation extending and expanding the scholarships to a government funding accord last year.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program has been a fantastic program for the city. It has allowed children from low-income families who would be at risk in the public schools in Washington, D. C., to get the education they need to be successful.

The article reports:

Under the agreement Boehner announced, there will be no cap on enrollment, and the program will remain open to both new and current applicants.

Bi-partisanship works when the issue is valid!

Enhanced by Zemanta