February 6, 2023

Jerry L. Evans: Private schools should not be funded by Idaho taxpayers

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Jerry L. Evans served as a Republican Idaho state superintendent of public instruction from 1979 until 1995. In an op-ed for the Idaho Statesman, he argues against the new voucher push.

Now that Idaho legislators have returned to the Capitol, some are once again calling for “school choice,” which is nothing more than a politically sanitized way of saying: private school vouchers.

Schemes for funding private schools at public expense go by many names: “vouchers,” “school choice,” “education savings accounts” and other labels. But they all mean the same thing: taking funds away from our public schools to give to private schools.

Well-funded interest groups and anti-public school legislators have come dangerously close to establishing a voucher system in the past, and with the recent increase of $410 million in education funding, voucher advocates are back with a vengeance.

It’s important to understand what vouchers really mean for education in Idaho. Vouchers do not give Idaho families more “choice,” as proponents claim. Instead of creating more choices, vouchers weaken public schools and hurt rural communities.

Evans calls out the vouchers as a windfall for private schools.

Make no mistake, Idaho’s private schools are concentrated in cities. Research recently conducted by RISE, an Idaho education advocacy group, found that three-quarters of students attending private schools live in just four counties, and 20 of Idaho’s 44 counties have no private schools at all.

Many rural districts are already struggling to provide the same quality education that wealthier urban districts are able to provide. Taking even more state funds away from these schools would only deepen the inequality between Idaho’s urban and rural districts, as well as between property-rich districts and lower-income ones.

Vouchers would only exacerbate this inequality. They would never cover the cost of Idaho’s most elite private schools where tuition can run as high as $20,000 per year.

And he suggests an alternative–serve all the students in the state.

Instead of subsidizing private schools, our political leaders should do their job and their constitutional duty by fully funding the public schools that serve every Idaho community.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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