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Voucher Myths

March 5th 2012

Myth #1: Private school vouchers shift much-needed resources away from local public schools.

Real world experience and empirical evidence from other states shows that communities with school choice programs have seen per-pupil public school funding rise.

The truth is that when students leave public schools using voucher programs, they free up more money for the students who remain. Taking a student out of public school removes the cost of educating that student. Most of these savings remain in local school budgets where they benefit the students who remain; the rest of the savings go into state budgets.

In 1992, Milwaukee’s school choice program had been in place for two years, and according to the U.S. Census, the city’s public schools spent $9,038 per student. By 2007 that figure had swelled to $11,725 – a 30 percent increase in real dollars. Similarly, Cleveland’s school choice program launched in 1997, and the city was spending $9,293 per student.  Ten years later, Cleveland was spending $11,383 per student in 2007 – a 22 percent increase in real dollars over eleven school years.

The reason for this trend is clear: the cost of providing a voucher or scholarship for a student in a school choice program is almost always less than what would have been spent on that student if he or she had remained in public schools. While the average public school in Indiana spends about $10,000 per student, the average private school charges about $6,000 in tuition. That difference is the fundamental reason school choice policies will save money.

In truth, it’s time to shift the conversation away from the needs of institutions and buildings and shift toward meeting the needs of kids. State funded scholarships are a way to provide Indiana parents with much needs educational options and Indiana kids with much needed opportunities.   Today, wealthier parents already get to send their children to the school of their choice. School choice advocates believe every family should have that opportunity.

Myth # 2: Vouchers do nothing to address the more pressing problems facing Indiana’s schools such as class size, teacher training, outdated and overcrowded buildings and inequitable funding.

The truth is school choice advocates support all kinds of reforms, including improvements to class size, teacher training, facilities enhancements, equitable funding, and the like. However, there is nothing equitable about our current system. While we are waiting on the hope of long term reforms, we must not continue to force children to stay in schools that are not meeting their needs.  The promise of long-term change provides little hope for a child who is currently locked into a classroom setting where (s)he is not succeeding.

For decades, public school funding in Indiana has been in the rise, while results remain stagnant. It’s time for a new solution.  It’s time to empower parents to make choices for their children and utilize competition to improve ALL schools. Remember, today, wealthier parents already get to send their children to the school of their choice. School choice advocates believe every family should have that opportunity.

Myth #3: Public school students who attempt to use vouchers often run into exclusionary admission policies at private schools.

This assertion is totally untrue.

Private schools are eager to serve students who have not been successful in a traditional public school setting. Experience in other states has show that those struggling students are the very students who choose to leave public schools to find another option, not the highest achieving students. Also, H.B. 1003 requires that private schools, who participate in the proposed program, treat students on scholarship the same as applying students who will not receive a scholarship.  Data also demonstrates that private schools do serve a high percentage of at-risk and special education populations.

Myth #4: Vouchers funnel public dollars to private schools, yet taxpayers have absolutely no say in how voucher schools are run.  Further, private schools are not required to meet basic accountability standards, such as open meetings and records law, or to release test scores, dropout rates, and other basic information.

Vouchers or state funded scholarships fund kids, not schools. Participating private schools are required to be accredited as well as administer the state’s ISTEP assessment. As a result, these schools will be held accountable and subject to the state’s proposed A-F grading system. Furthermore, private schools are subject to the ultimate form of accountability which is that if a parent is not happy with the education their child is receiving they can remove them from the school. Also remember that programs like this save states money because it is almost always costs less to educate a child in a private school than their local public school, particularly in urban districts.