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Vouchers Defund Public Schools...Period

In the late 1950s through the ’60s, politicians in the Deep South sought to avoid the consequence of Brown v. Board of Education—desegregation of public schools—by any means necessary. Their solution? Using state dollars to fund private “segregation academies” where White parents, fearful of integration, could send their children. 

Sixty years later, proponents of voucher programs that divert money from public schools to private and for-profit charter schools claim vouchers are a way of providing minority students with access to a better education. I bet Harry Houdini would have admired such sleight of hand.  

But we see clearly what they’re doing, and we are calling it out. Vouchers are an attempt to weaken public education by diverting resources to private schools. In this issue of NEA Today, we take a look at the risks vouchers and for-profit charter schools pose to our students, the public schools they attend, and our mission of providing opportunity to every student. 

Today, advocates of vouchers have slapped a brand-new lipstick on this pig. Whatever creative name they come up with, the effect is the same. Voucher programs are state-sanctioned (and if President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have their way, nationally sanctioned) programs to defund public schools.  

For many of the groups that have been backing vouchers for decades, it’s more about their free-market ideology, where competition in all sectors determines winners and losers, than it is about students. After all, any good reformer who is motivated by student success would start by looking at what is happening in our best public schools and compare it to what is happening in our struggling schools. The answer is simple: In our best schools, there are resources, programs, student supports, and services. We provide this for some children. The moral question before us is whether or not we will provide the same for all children. And if this is the goal, vouchers are not the answer. 

If voucher advocates truly wanted to provide all students with access to a great education, they would want public schools in every community to have the ability to offer the support and tools that our best schools offer. This would mean opposing programs that divert public money to private schools—schools that not only are unaccountable to the public, but pick and choose their students.  

The truth is that when it comes to providing real opportunity to students, regardless of who they are, where they live, what religious or spiritual beliefs they hold, what language they speak, or how much—or how little—their families have, public schools welcome all comers. That’s not a mission private and religious schools are obligated to uphold. But it is one we are proud to embrace. 

Lily Eskelsen García
President

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Published In

1-Apr-17

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