August 22, 2023

Carolina Forward: The Case for Vouchers Collapses

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The Carolina Forward blog looks at the full range of issues affecting North Carolina, and even as the NC legislature expanded the voucher program, the blog was explaining why the expansion was a terrible idea.

Purely on the merits of policy, private school vouchers are a no-win situation.

Perversely, an expansion of vouchers will hurt school districts in North Carolina’s ailing rural counties the hardest. In most rural parts of our state, as in other states, there are simply no private alternatives to public schools at all. Not only that, but because local tax bases are far thinner, local communities have no way to make up for the outflow of resources from their school districts that an expansion of vouchers would trigger. Rural school systems, already reeling from decades of underinvestment, would see their budgets shrink yet again.

The state’s existing voucher program is also a glaring example of fraud, waste and mismanagement. Even a cursory investigation of voucher data showed that millions in taxpayer money each year vanishes by paying for “ghost students,” and even whole “ghost schools.” This grift seems to have been happening right out in the open, with absolutely no attempt to hide it – and yet, incredibly, it was exposed not by the state office that manages the voucher program, nor by legislative “oversight,” but by gumshoe outside researchers using public information. One imagines what isn’t public yet.

Perhaps most critically, voucher-funded private schools do not perform better academically – in fact, they may actually perform worse. A large-scale, longitudinal study of Ohio’s private school voucher program specifically found that “the students who used vouchers to attend private schools fared worse on state exams compared to their closely matched peers remaining in public schools.” (See the full Fordham Institute report.) Numerous studies and peer-reviewed research – produced not by donor-funded partisan activists, but by nonpartisan scholars – come to the same conclusion, like this study from Louisianathis one from Washington D.C., and this one from Indiana.

Read the full piece here, and keep it in mind when the voucher push comes to your state.

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