February 24, 2024

John Schaaf: School vouchers hurting students’ academic performance

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Writing for the Northern Kentucky Tribune, attorney John Schaaf argues against the plan to funnel taxpayer dollars to private religious schools.

A couple of weeks ago at the State Capitol in Frankfort, a lobbying group called “EdChoice Kentucky, Inc.” organized a rally in favor of changing the state’s constitution to funnel taxpayer money into private religious schools.

Most of the people who showed up were students from Catholic and Christian schools who were bused in for the occasion. They were there to support lobbyists’ efforts to force all Kentuckians to pay tuition and expenses for students like them who are already attending private schools.

Sadly, most taxpayers were probably at work and couldn’t attend the rally to hear EdChoice’s Moe Lundrigan tout his dream for a huge and costly expansion of state government: vouchers paid for by every Kentuckian, with the voucher money flowing into the pockets of out-of-state corporate big shots and churches from the ‘hood to the holler.’

In a strange twist, Lundrigan argued that Kentucky should follow Indiana and Ohio in handing out massive financial subsidies to private schools. Ironically, Lundrigan’s urging comes at a time when research is showing vouchers fail to improve academic performance in the very states Lundrigan is touting.

Nearly every Indiana student is eligible for vouchers and Hoosier taxpayers are spending $1.136 billion in this budget cycle to pay private school tuition.

Unfortunately for voucher recipients and those who claim that private schools are somehow better than public schools, researchers at the University of Notre Dame studied Indiana’s costly voucher program and determined that students using vouchers were not keeping up academically with public school students.

According to the researchers, Indiana voucher students experienced an achievement loss in mathematics during their first year of attending a private school compared with students who remained in public school. That loss persisted regardless of the length of time spent in a private school. In English and other language arts, the researchers did not observe any ‘statistically meaningful’ effects for voucher recipients.

In other words, hundreds of millions of Indiana tax dollars are annually thrown at private schools that duplicate the mission of the public schools taxpayers already support, but the duplicate schools aren’t as effective as the well-established public schools.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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