Many public schools around the nation are chronically underfunded. Diverting muchneeded funding from public schools to pay for private school vouchers makes that situation worse. For example, the cost of Arizona’s private school voucher program has increased 50-fold in 16 years, even as private school attendance in the state has decreased. A study of the voucher program in Wisconsin found that the program’s expansion posed “a significant fiscal threat to public schools.” Moreover, these diverted funds are often mis-spent. In Florida, investigative journalists found voucher recipient schools had hired teachers without college degrees and falsified health and safety records. In Arizona, an audit of the voucher program found parents received funds after enrolling students in public schools and after purchasing items that were not permitted.
For many years, studies of voucher programs across the country have found no improvement in student achievement. Studies in Washington, D.C. and Alabama found no significant improvement in student test scores. Studies in Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio found that students who attended private schools using vouchers actually performed worse than their similar peers in public schools. These negative effects persisted over years, meaning they were not a temporary result of students’ transition to a new school. The negative impact on academic achievement of attending a voucher school may be even worse than the impact of high teacher turnover and feeling unsafe at school. Additionally, the Louisiana voucher program did not increase the rates of college enrollment among high school graduates. And parents do not report greater satisfaction with schools, nor a greater sense of safety, with the use of private school vouchers.
It’s worth noting here that in spite of this evidence, Gov. Bill Lee insisted on funding vouchers in the emergency budget the General Assembly passed before recessing due to COVID-19.
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