Mary Wilke: Say no to expanding the school voucher program
Mary Wilke is a retired teacher in New Hampshire, where a school voucher program is becoming more and more costly.
In its first 18 months of operation, New Hampshire’s school voucher program has spent $22.8 million, which is $19.4 million more than was budgeted. To date, there has been no independent assessment of this publicly funded program, its impact on students, or how it is being administered.
Yet surprisingly, some New Hampshire legislators are pushing bills that would significantly expand it by loosening its eligibility requirements.
Many questions need to be answered before even continuing, much less expanding, this program. First and foremost: Are the students using vouchers (also known as “Education Freedom Accounts”) actually being well served? Are they making adequate academic progress? What data do we have to assess this?
Another critical question is whether the money spent on vouchers has been used appropriately. On average, eligible families can access about $4,800 per child each year to help pay for private school tuition or for education-related expenses of homeschooling. A private scholarship organization, Children’s Scholarship Fund, is paid to decide whether parents’ requests for reimbursement are within the law’s guidelines and to distribute the money accordingly.
Before expanding the program, shouldn’t someone review whether it’s making these judgments correctly? Especially since every time the organization approves a parental request, it gets to keep 10% of the approved amount?
Why is accountability only a concern for public schools, not for voucher programs? Read the full op-ed here.