Home > Uncategorized > Wisconsin House Member Seeks GAO Study on Vouchers… and Findings are Unsurprisingly Bad

Wisconsin House Member Seeks GAO Study on Vouchers… and Findings are Unsurprisingly Bad

When he took office a few years ago, Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin House member, asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study taxpayer-funded voucher programs because he sensed that the programs were ripping off taxpayers in his home state where roughly 75% of the 32,000 students receiving taxpayer funds for vouchers to attend private schools were already enrolled in those schools. He reported his findings in an article in The Progressive and they were unsurprisingly negative. Among the findings:

…some taxpayer-funded voucher schools do not require the same teaching credentials as public schools. The report confirmed that many taxpayer-funded voucher programs do not require teachers to meet minimum standards for teacher preparation, further calling into question the legitimacy of these programs.

….many voucher schools, according to the report, are able to cherry-pick which students they prefer. They could refuse to take in a child who might cost more to educate, such as a child with disabilities.

…taxpayer-funded voucher schools can mandate religious requirements for students as a part of admissions criteria.

…a majority of the programs GAO studied do not cap the amount schools can charge for tuition—a hefty price for schools that remain largely untested.

After elaborating on these deficiencies Pocan concludes his op ed piece with this:

Given this new verified information from a nonpartisan resource like the GAO, where do we go from here? In its report, the GAO recommends additional federal Department of Education “incorporate information about providing equitable services in the context of private school choice.” I agree. The Department of Education should provide additional guidance.

But I also think taxpayers must demand greater accountability from private voucher schools. At a minimum, they should be held to the same level of accountability—and the same standards—as our public schools. 

It is unconscionable for taxpayers to continue funding two duplicative education systems, particularly when the one can cherry-pick students and ignore educational standards and dodge showing proof they are working.

We need to have the federal Department of Education clarify the necessary steps to ensure proper oversight of this program, which appears to be a wasteful, failing experiment. After all, this should be about quality education for our kids.

If anything, Mr. Pocan is soft on the USDOE and the GAO. Giving parents more information about the equitable services is a weak recommendation based on the findings he highlighted in their report. It is not only“unconscionable for taxpayers to continue funding two duplicative education systems” it is unconscionable for the USDOE to allow one of those “systems” to “cherry-pick students and ignore educational standards and dodge showing proof they are working” and even MORE unconscionable for the GAO to allow such a thing to occur once it found it happening. In the end the federal Department of Education needs to do more than “clarify the necessary steps to ensure proper oversight of this program”. It should take steps to ensure that programs that “cherry-pick students and ignore educational standards and dodge showing proof they are working” are summarily closed and compelled to refund their funds to the taxpayers who were bilked.

 

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