ESSA + Trump = Need to Take Vouchers Seriously… And Wisconsin’s Shows Why Vouchers Undermine Public Schools
The on-line version of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel featured an op ed essay by WI congressman Mark Pocan outlining the findings of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on vouchers across the country… and the findings are deeply troubling given the direction Congress and at least one Presidential candidate and political party want to take our country. Outlined below in bullet form are the findings on taxpayer funded voucher schools. They:
- lack high educational standards for students and teachers
- discriminate against certain students, particularly students with disabilities or those who speak English as a second language
- fail to demonstrate true academic achievement
- deplete funds from public schools and reroute them to the comparatively few students in private schools
- go to families of students who were already attending private schools
- can mandate religious requirements for students as a part of admissions criteria
- can be directed to for profit schools that persistently fail to meet state standards
Congressman Pocan is especially troubled about the use of vouchers because of what has happened in his State, where a voucher program has been in place in Milwaukee for nearly two decades:
According to a report from the Wisconsin State Journal earlier this year, funding for voucher school students across the state was up 14% while funding for our public school students is down by 4%. This marked the first year in which school districts experienced a drop in state aid in order to pay for students living in district boundaries but attending private schools.
Mr. Pocan concludes his op ed essay with these paragraphs:
In its report, GAO recommends that the federal Department of Education issue guidance on how taxpayer-funded voucher programs affect federal education dollars and public school systems. I agree the Department of Education should provide additional guidance but I also believe taxpayers must demand accountability from taxpayer-funded private voucher schools that do not have the same level of accountability as public schools.
It is unconscionable for taxpayers to continue funding these profit-making schemes disguised as schools. It is time for the Department of Education to protect students and further clarify the steps to ensure oversight. After all, this should be about quality education for our kids.
Mr. Pocan may be a voice in the wilderness if Congressman who seek to include portability in ESSA prevail or Mr. Trump enters the White House and places a pro-privatization “educator” to head the Education Department. He is probably a vote in the wilderness already in Wisconsin, where the legislature is clearly on the road to dismantling public education in favor of privatization. Here’s hoping his warnings do not fall on deaf ears.