February 19, 2023

Houston Chronicle Editorial Board: All the best arguments for school vouchers — and why they’re wrong.

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The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board offers this systematic debunking of various pro-voucher arguments being used in Texas. For example:

Claim: Vouchers increase choice for all students.

As more states adopt large-scale voucher systems, a clearer picture of who tends to benefit first is emerging: families already enrolled in private schools. “The only people it’s going to help are the kids who don’t need the help,” was how one rural Republican representative put it in November.

In Arizona, 80 percent of recipients were already enrolled in private schools. And when private school tuition at the top schools is tens of thousands of dollars, the benefit of a $10,000 subsidy might close the gap for a middle-income family, but is decidedly less able to do so for a low-income one. Those top tier private schools aren’t, by and large, the ones suddenly within reach. And they’re still able to reject students.

Or this:

Claim: Vouchers improve outcomes.

In the early days ofsmaller, more targeted voucher programs, the research seemed promising. But that promise has largely evaporated as programs have scaled up.

“I’ve been in both eras of this work,” Cowen explained. The early studies “are still the best evidence we have that vouchers work and they are 20 years old.” Instead he said more recent studies of Louisiana, Ohio and other large-scale voucher programs have shown “catastrophic, devastating outcomes” in student test scores, on par with the disruption caused by disasters including Hurricane Katrina.

Why? In part, lack of accountability.

And this one:

Claim: We can fund both vouchers and public schools. 

“We can support school choice and, at the same time, create the best public education system in America,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wrote in support of vouchers back in 2022 when he was gearing up for this legislative session. “These issues are not in conflict with each other.”

In the State of the State, Abbott promised that public schools will remain fully funded if the state expanded its limited education savings accounts available to families with students with special education needs.

These statements are laugh-to-keep-from-crying wrong.

Despite Abbott’s repeated “all-time high” claims about school funding, Texas already fails to support schools adequately now, falling well below the national average in per pupil spending. Other states, meanwhile, are already showing just how costly voucher schemes are and how they can further drain public education in the long-term.

You can read the full list here. 

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