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State GOP Lawmakers Pushing To Extend School Vouchers

State GOP Lawmakers Pushing To Extend School Vouchers

Just like they promised in their recent election campaigns, several GOP lawmakers around the country are pushing for a major expansion of school vouchers programs.

Extending Vouchers To Middle-Class Families

Since the GOP made major gains at the state level last fall, and school choice is a longtime priority for them, this is not entirely surprising. What is surprising is the diversity of strategies they are using, and how they are seeking to extend the voucher program to middle-class families.

From Education Week:

To date, many state voucher programs have limited eligibility to students from disadvantaged families or other targeted populations, a structure that helped generate political and public support for them.

But legislation in some states, such as Indiana and Pennsylvania, would establish relatively loose income requirements that would give access to families who are not impoverished.

And a sweeping bill in Florida would allow broad public access to vouchers, though the bill’s sponsor says his goal is to have it approved by lawmakers in the Republican-dominated legislature next year, rather than this year.

Backers of the proposals contend that families of all backgrounds — including middle-income ones — deserve more educational options, and that providing funding for private and religious schools would compel traditional public schools to improve.

“We want to empower parents to make choices in education,” said state Rep. Robert Behning, a Republican sponsor of voucher legislation in Indiana. “To provide more choice for parents, you need to create more options. … It shouldn’t be limited to just those at the poverty level.”

At Least 51 Pieces Of Legislation Related To Vouchers

At least 51 different pieces of legislation offering some type of mechanism for providing public funding for private education services have emerged in 35 states this year, according to the Foundation for Educational Choice, an Indianapolis organization that supports vouchers.

Voucher proponents also recently scored a victory in the District of Columbia, when Congress reinstated a voucher program that federal lawmakers had voted to end two years ago.

Lawmakers In Numerous States Working To Expand Vouchers

Lawmakers in numerous states are pushing proposals to set up or expand voucher programs. A few highlights from Education Week:

Republican Gov. Janice K. Brewer this month signed into law a bill designed to create vouchers for special education students. But, citing cost concerns, she vetoed a measure that would have expanded a tax-credit program for entities that support private school scholarships.

A proposal would create “education savings accounts” worth 40 percent of per-student state funding, or about $3,100, which families across the state could use for a host of private school services, including tutoring and virtual education.

 A Republican-backed measure would set relatively loose eligibility requirements for vouchers and be open to both low- and middle-class families. it would also create tax deductions for vouchers and expand tax credits to organizations supporting them.

Yet, in spite of the push for vouchers, which some see as the beginning of the end for public education, there is virtually no proof that vouchers lead to improved educational outcomes.

In Milwaukee, Voucher Students Perform The Same Or Worse Than Their Non-Voucher Peers

In fact, in the state of Wisconsin, where Governor Walker is joining the bandwagon and proposing to expand the voucher program currently only available to low-income students in Milwaukee, there is evidence that the voucher students in Milwaukee Public Schools performed the same or worse, compared to their non-voucher peers.

From Mother Jones:

Students in Milwaukee’s school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools.

MPS results overall showed 59% of students scoring proficient or better in reading, while 47.8% of students scored proficient or better in math. In the voucher program, 55.2% of students scored proficient or better in reading while 34.4% of students scored proficient or better in math.

Governor Walker Suggests No Standardized Tests For Voucher Students

So guess what? Governor Walker has suggested doing away with the requirement that students in tax-supported voucher schools take the same tests as students in tax-supported public schools. Hum, I wonder why that could be?

Vouchers take money away from already cash-strapped school districts, and there is no clear proof that students using these vouchers do any better than their non-voucher peers.

The spread of vouchers under the guise of “school choice” is a bad idea.


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11:18PM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

Thank you for article.

11:17PM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

Thank you for article.

11:16PM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

Thank you for article.

10:45AM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

public education? depends on your definition of public. Wealth does not = public.

3:28AM PDT on May 3, 2011

Land of the free, home of the brave?

Why is Republican thinking so twisted???

I'm behind Laura S.!

2:06PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Again the public doesn't get it. The Republican Tea party is out to end public education as we know it. By offering vouchers, it actually takes away government funding for public education, It wants to increase religious schooling .If their plan continues only the white rich will be allowed to be educated. Their agenda is one that goes along with ending Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Those will not only effect the elderly, disabled, poor, but also women, and young people will need those programs someday.

10:10PM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

The article states: "Students in Milwaukee's school choice program performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math and reading on the latest statewide test, according to results released Tuesday that provided the first apples-to-apples achievement comparison between public and individual voucher schools."

Governor Walker wants to expand the voucher program and do away with "the requirement that students in tax-supported voucher schools take the same tests as students in tax-supported public schools." He not only wants to expand a program that's not working so that higher-income families can take advantage of it --he's suggesting that statewide tests that prove that the program isn't working should not be required for students in voucher schools. Now there's a solution the GOP can live with! What a guy! He's true to his base no matter what! The more I read about him, the more I wonder how he can live with himself and why he has any supporters...

9:50AM PDT on Apr 29, 2011

@ Laura S. The one problem is that Republicans very rarely deal in logic.

10:34PM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

These vouchers serve two purposes. First to get closer to the privatization of schools. Second is to send the tax dollars to the private businessman. Just another way for these Republican twits to get their way.

Just take a good look at what they have been doing state by state. This has to be some kind of conspiracy. They did not come up with the same ideas at the same time, when those 2010 elections were held. They are puppets, but who are the puppetmasters? Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, and Brandstad has stated that he wants to break unions here in Iowa, privatize, and take womens rights away.

We need to find out who is paying the pigs and make their lives a living hell. We know in Walker's case, it was the Koch brothers, and maybe their were more. At any rate, if we make their businesses and their personal agenda public, it might help the American people. I don't really think that it matters how stupid our state Governors look. They already appear stupid and they don't seem to care. The biggest whores are in government. But if the American people continue to fight these jerks, we will win. Boycott their products, picket their businesses, and report everything they do to the public. I don't think they would like it.

Maybe then, they would back down. Who knows, but it is worth a try.

9:27PM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

It's obvious that the purpose of vouchers and these other ed "reform" schemes hatched by Repubs is to destroy public education and privatize it. Another mechanism for transferring public money into private hands. Any "accountability" goes out the window once things are private. Who is dumb enough to believe Repubs are sincere about providing the nation's children with a good education - all they care about is money, and shoveling as much taxpayer money as they can to their business buddies.

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