The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board took notice today of the recent move by conservative-dominated Douglas County Schools to initiate a private school voucher program. Conclusion? Wrong goals, wrong beneficiaries, wrong outcomes likely:
Supporters of school vouchers like to say that their goal is to provide a higher-quality education for the children who need it most. The latest events in Colorado say otherwise. A voucher program there seems more likely to benefit middle-class children and religious schools than low-income public school students, and to worsen inequities in education.
Last week, the board of the Douglas County School District voted for a pilot program that will give the parents of 500 of its 60,000-students about $4,500 each – 75% of what the district receives in per-pupil funding – to use toward tuition at participating private schools of their choice. Many of the private schools in the area are religiously based…
The private schools will be allowed to operate pretty much as they see fit. If that means accepting only the highest achievers, or rejecting students whose parents are gay or who are from a different religious background, no problem.
As long as the schools are accredited, there are no restrictions on their curriculum or instruction. They can teach creationism in place of real science, or promote their own religious beliefs exclusively, with substantial taxpayer funding.
As the Times points out, a voucher subsidy of $4,500 won’t come anywhere near the estimated $7,000 to $14,000 annual cost of private tuition. So who makes up that difference? Why, those who can afford to, of course! As for the rest of the kids? Go ahead and do your best in whatever emasculated public school system is left behind after Castle Pines families opt for $4,500 off what they would pay to send their kids to private school. This inevitable problem is a big reason why voucher programs have fallen out of favor, and charter schools have emerged as the more desirable “school choice” alternative.
Except in DougCo. DougCo doesn’t want to hear it. DougCo’s going to prove them all wrong.