Learn How School Vouchers Damage Public School Systems

Private and Public Schools Struggle to Get Their Share of State Funding.

Please read through this invitation and consider attending the webinar and then take action. Some of our local legislators of both parties have indicated they support vouchers. Please share this information with them about the harm vouchers do to public education as a whole. 

While some of the support stems from anecdotal information representing a small population of children, it ignores the larger picture of the impact this program has on public education as well as the restrictions some of the private schools put on the students who receive the vouchers. 

Here’s what you can do:

1.  Attend the online forum the League of Women Voters of Illinois (LWVIL) is co-sponsoring,  What You need to Know about Invest in Kids – IL’s Tax Credit Voucher Program next Tuesday April 25, 7pm, registration at bit.ly/ILvoucherwebinar

Webpage link

Facebook event

Zoom registration page

Pdf flyer

As you know, LWVIL opposes continuing our highly flawed Illinois “Invest in Kids” private school voucher tax credit scholarship program.  

If the legislature takes no action this session to extend the program, the Illinois voucher program will end. The $75 million spent to support private, mostly religious schools can be used to meet public obligations.

2.  Tell your legislators to let the program end.   It lacks accountability and transparency.  It funds schools that discriminate against students with special needs, that discriminate against LGBTQ parents, and that exclude families with different faith traditions.  The LWVIL position is that public funding should support public schools which accept all children.  

Legislators tell us they find it hard to end a program, even if they recognize it should never have been started in the first place in 2017.  They are deluged with panicked pleas from the 9000 students currently getting the scholarships, and from the private and religious organizations and schools that have quickly grown dependent on state funding. They need to hear from you.  Public funding should support our underfunded public schools.  All of the 1.8 million children attending public schools deserve the adequately funded education our state constitution promises.  

Jan Ressenger says it well in her blog post today:  https://janresseger.wordpress.com/2023/04/18/37904/

Remember that your letter to the editor or your legislative testimony will help form, support, and solidify overall public pressure on your legislators.  You are also likely to wake up other citizens who haven’t been paying attention and to activate a wide reservoir of public opinion that already exists against the privatization of public schools.  If you are planning to write a letter to the editor or to submit legislative testimony advocating the protection of your public schools from the theft of already scarce dollars in your state’s public school budget and the protection of the civil rights of your state’s students, here are four excellent and up-to-date resources:

First:    The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers, a new report from Public Funds Public Schools—a project of the Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center—addresses what it costs states to fund vouchers for private schooling and specifically what it costs the public schools themselves as states siphon out money for the vouchers.  The report’s authors, are Samuel E. Abrams, the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College and his colleague Steven J. Koutsavlis. They explain: “The claim that it costs less to educate students with private school vouchers than in public schools ignores numerous realities. Voucher programs shift key expenses to parents; often subsidize private tuition for families who would never have enrolled in public schools; do not dilute fixed costs for public education systems, and concentrate higher-need, more-costly-to-educate students in already underfunded public schools.”  “As states transfer millions of dollars to private hands, there are fewer available state resources for projects that serve the public good, from mass transit to public parks, libraries, and schools.” And yet, “Voucher programs, even with significant expansion during the last one to two decades, still serve only a small percentage of the nation’s children.”

Second:     In State Policymakers Should Reject K-12 School Voucher Plans: Proposals Would Undermine Public Schools, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Iris Hinh examines many of the voucher programs currently being considered by the state legislatures. Hinh also provides background on how various voucher plans work and how they threaten public schools: “School vouchers reduce overall state revenues to fund services like education…. In some… cases they can be designed to divert money that’s already been designated for public schools through their state funding formula… And since the largest share of state spending is on public education, reducing overall state revenues almost inevitably reduces the available funding for public schools, especially as school voucher programs grow.” “While public schools must adhere to federal civil rights protections, students using vouchers to attend private schools can be explicitly or implicitly denied opportunities based on their race and ethnicity, gender presentation, and disability… Siphoning public dollars to fund private schools does not guarantee that all students will be admitted and adequately supported at private schools.”

Third:    In School Vouchers: There Is No Upside, Michigan State University Professor Josh Cowen, who has been conducting voucher research for more than two decades, enumerates what current research demonstrates about serious damage wrought by the widespread expansion of vouchers across the states: “First, vouchers mostly fund children already in private school… Second… Although a few tiny studies from the late 1990s and early 2000s showed small gains in test scores for voucher users, since 2013, the record is dismal… Third… the typical private school in line for a voucher handout isn’t one of the elite private schools…. The typical voucher school is what I refer to as a sub-prime provider…. The fourth pattern is related: kids flee those sub-prime schools… Fifth comes the issue of transparency and oversight… If we’re going to use taxpayer funds on these private ventures, we need to know what the academic results are… Finally… Imagine you simply knew that written into the legislation for voucher programs is the explicit right of private schools to turn down any child they wanted to reject so long as something about that child varied from the school’s so-called ‘creed.’” Here is a summary of Cowen’s research comparing public school achievement levels with the collapse in academic achievement after students carrying vouchers have been enrolled in private schools.

Fourth:     In State of the States: Governors and PK-12 Education Policy, a short new resource from the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center Chalkboard. Rachel Perera explains why it is better to think of voucher programs “as subsidizing private school tuition for families that can already afford to send their kids to private school.” She adds that families in rural areas “don’t have any school choices besides their local public schools… While 82% of families have access to one or more private elementary schools within a 5 mile radius, that number drops to only 34% for families living in rural areas.” “(S)tatewide voucher programs.. do not boost academic achievement…. (and) students attending private schools do not have the same civil rights protections as students attending public schools.”