There’s no link between vouchers and gains in student achievement.
There’s no conclusive evidence that vouchers improve the achievement of students who use them to attend private school. Nor is there any validity to claims that, by creating a “competitive marketplace” for students, vouchers force public schools to improve. In fact, the most dramatic improvements in student achievement have occurred in places where vouchers do not exist — such as Texas, North Carolina, Connecticut and Chicago. Instead, those states and communities focused on teacher quality and extra help for students who need it.
Do vouchers undermine accountability for public funds?
Do you feel that vouchers do not reduce public education costs?
Do vouchers give parents real educational choice?
Two out of three voters cast “no” on use of vouchers.
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Louisiana’s voucher programs serve low-income families, children in schools labeled as “failing,” and students with special needs. Lawmakers recently voted to significantly expand the program so that almost half of all schoolchildren in the state are eligible. At this time, several lawsuits have been filed against the expansion.
Families that qualify can apply to the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence through the state Department of Education or on-site at a participating school. Students rank five private schools they wish to attend and are admitted through a lottery.
Students with special needs who live in a city of a population over 190,000 can get a voucher to cover part of private school tuition. Not all disabilities are eligible. (More information here)
Louisiana also gives tax deductions to individuals up to $5,000 per student. When filing a tax return, parents can provide receipts for tuition, books or other student fees for either private or public school.
Revered and reviled, school vouchers are a hot-button topic in the school choice arena. But what do they mean for you, the parent? Here’s what you need to know, state by state.
A voucher allows parents to use public funds to pay for some or all of their child’s private school tuition. Vouchers are created and distributed by state governments, in most cases.
The first voucher program, created in 1991 in Milwaukee, WI, was designed to give low-income families more high-quality school options. Roughly 300 students were served in the first year. Today, 12 states and the District of Colombia have voucher systems serving more than just low-income families. They are Arizona, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin. A number of those and other states have tax credit programs that partially subsidize private schooling.
Voucher programs are politically contentious. They often face harsh scrutiny from critics who say they blur the lines between church and state or destroy public education because they drain much-needed resources from public schools and lack the oversight that exists in public institutions. Advocates contend that these programs provide families, especially those who cannot afford private school tuition, with alternatives when a school or school system fails. They also argue that parents should not have to pay for schooling twice (in both taxes and tuition). As well, vouchers are promoted as a way to improve public education by introducing competition.
How do vouchers work?
Voucher laws essentially reimburse parents for the amount of money that would have otherwise been used to educate their child in a public school. Parents can use the money to pay some or all of a private school’s tuition (or in some cases, a public school in another district). The amount of money varies by state, but the average ranges from $2,000 to $5,000. In a few special cases, they are as little as $500 (Illinois school tax credits) or as much as $25,000 (private school subsidies for special needs students in Oklahoma).
Many voucher programs have agreements with the participating private schools to allow the voucher amount to cover full tuition. Others provide a set amount, which sometimes covers and sometimes doesn’t cover the full private school tuition. Typically, religiously affiliated schools cost less than private independent schools.
In most states, once a parent requests a voucher, the money flows directly from the government to the private school. The amount of money varies from state to state and is adjusted annually. According to the American Federation for Children, a pro-school choice group, state governments across the country allocated a total of $800 million to vouchers and tax credit programs in 2011-12. The portion of government money that goes to religiously-affiliated schools varies by state, but in many cases it’s well over half.
Some states offer tax credits for private schooling instead of vouchers. In those cases, an individual can get a credit on their tax return or a corporation can get a tax break for giving money to private scholarship organizations. The credits may be small or may be enough to cover full tuition at a private school. These programs are not typically included in the controversial debate over vouchers, largely because money does not flow directly from a public entity to a private institution. But in a few recent cases, tax credits have been proposed or used to avoid legal battles involving the separation of church and state. That’s because money flows through a middle man, in this case a scholarship organization. Such programs have drawn criticism for not serving the neediest students.