Alec MacGillis: Private Schools, Public Money: School Leaders Are Pushing Parents to Exploit Voucher Programs
the rise of voucher programs means more opportunities for private schools to cash in and enjoy a windfall of taxpayer dollars. Alec MacGillis, writing for ProPublica, explores how many private schools are making the most of this moment.
Tara Polansky and her husband were torn about where to enroll their daughter when they moved back to Columbus, Ohio, a year and a half ago. The couple, who work for a nonprofit organization and a foundation, respectively, were concerned about the quality of the city’s public schools and finally decided to send her to Columbus Jewish Day School. It was a long drive out to the suburbs every day, but they admired the school for its liberal-minded outlook.
So Polansky was startled when, in September, the school wrote to families telling them to apply for taxpayer-funded vouchers to cover part of the $18,000 tuition. In June, the Republican-controlled state government had expanded the state’s private-school voucher program to increase the value of the vouchers — to a maximum of $8,407 a year for high school students and $6,165 for those in lower grades — and, crucially, to make them available to all families.
For years the program, EdChoice, targeted mostly lower-income students in struggling school districts. Now it is an entitlement available to all, with its value decreasing for families with higher incomes but still providing more than $7,000 annually for high school students in solidly middle-class families and close to $1,000 for ones in the wealthiest families. Demand for EdChoice vouchers has nearly doubled this year, at a cost to Ohio taxpayers of several hundred million additional dollars, the final tally of which won’t be known for months.
That surge has been propelled by private school leaders, who have an obvious interest: The more voucher money families receive, the less schools have to offer in financial aid. The voucher revenue also makes it easier to raise tuition.