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School Voucher Debate
03.26.04
Society and Community:
American Education
More on This Story:
School Voucher Debate

Finding a consensus on proposed voucher programs has never been easy. Debates over the best way to improve American education have drawn in educational groups, religious councils, political advocates and others. And still, no verdict has been reached about the academic, financial, or social value of such programs. Some even question the constitutionality of such programs, while others claim that denying passage of voucher programs borders on religious discrimination. Learn more about the history of educational vouchers as well as related information on the separation of church and state.

Read below about both sides of the school voucher debate.

Discuss your thoughts on the topic.

Advocating vouchers:Opposing vouchers:
"Parents should be given the option to enroll their children in alternative public schools, or private schools, using public education funds. Forcing parents to utilize only their local public school results in many cases in children attending understaffed and under-maintained facilities in which educators are under-qualified and student achievement suffers accordingly."

- American Legislative Exchange Council

"The AFT supports parents' right to send their children to private or religious schools but opposes the use of public funds to do so. The main reason for this opposition is because public funding of private or religious education transfers precious tax dollars from public schools, which are free and open to all children, accountable to parents and taxpayers alike, and essential to our democracy, to private and religious schools that charge for their services, select their students on the basis of religious or academic or family or personal characteristics, and are accountable only to their boards and clients."

- American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

"Since public education accounts for the largest category of state spending in every state, governors should look for ways to optimize education spending. One way to do that is to give parents a free choice of public or private schools. Since private schools cost less than average per pupil spending in government-run schools, states would save money"

- David Salisbury, Cato Institute

"Each year, about $65 million dollars is spent by foundations and individuals to promote vouchers. In election years, voucher advocates spend even more on ballot measures and in support of pro-voucher candidates. In the words of political strategist, Grover Norquist, 'We win just by debating school choice, because the alternative is to discuss the need to spend more money...'"

- National Education Association

"School choice does not drain money from public schools, rather it allows public schools to use their money to educate students more effectively."

- Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation

"Under voucher programs, our educational system -- and our country -- would become even more Balkanized than it already is. With the help of taxpayers' dollars, private schools would be filled with well-to-do and middle-class students and a handful of the best, most motivated students from inner cities. Some public schools would be left with fewer dollars to teach the poorest of the poor and other students who, for one reason or another, were not private school material. Such a scenario can hardly benefit public education."

- Anti-Defamation League

"To give a government-funded voucher to a parent to 'spend' at the public, private or parochial school of their choice is no more a governmental establishment of religion than allowing a Medicare beneficiary to seek their treatment (which the government will pay for) at the public, private or parochial hospital of their choice. To assert otherwise is at least inconsistent. Moreover, it borders on religious discrimination..."

- Orthodox Union Institute for Public Affairs

"Americans must be free to contribute only to the religious groups of their choosing. Voucher programs violate this principle by forcing all taxpayers to underwrite religious education. Often, religious schools promote sectarian dogma and take controversial stands on issues such as gay rights, the role of women in society and reproductive freedom. Taxpayers should not be required to subsidize the spread of religious/moral opinions they may strongly disagree with."

- Americans United for Separation of Church and State

"Under a school choice plan, a parent would have options. There would be consequences for a school's poor performance. Parents could pull their children out of poorly performing schools and enroll them someplace else. If exercising this option leads to a mass exodus from certain underachieving schools, learn this painful lesson: schools will either improve, or close due to declining enrollments."

- Kurt L. Schmoke, former Mayor of Baltimore

"A 2002 study conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office, which examined privately funded voucher programs, found no significant achievement gains for students using vouchers versus students in public schools."

- People for the American Way

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