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The School Choice Debate: Should K-12 Students Be Provided Vouchers?

The School Choice Debate: Should K-12 Students Be Provided Vouchers?

One of stipulations that did not make the cut with the Senate's passing of the Every Child Achieves Act- the re-write to the expired No Child Left Behind Act- was the provision for providing school vouchers to low-income families.

School vouchers allow families, specifically low-earning ones, to use federal funding to pay for private school tuition in order to fully provide them with school choice.

As of now, proposals to provide school vouchers to low-income families have been shot down twice, with no Democrats supporting the measures and several Republicans also in opposition.

The two proposals came from Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and were respectively defeated by 45-51 and 45-52 votes.

"Scott’s idea was to take the stream of federal dollars sent to school districts to help educate poor children — an amount that totaled $14.4 billion in fiscal 2014 — and allow poor families to tap into it to pay for tuition at parochial or other private schools. Money for poor students, also known as Title 1, is the single largest category of federal funding in K-12 education," said The Washington Post.

Supporters of school vouchers believe the funding will provide them with many options for providing their children with the best education possible: "Local and state leaders are figuring out that when parents have a choice, kids have a chance," Scott said, according to The Post.

On the opposing side, "[c]ritics, including most Democrats, teachers unions and groups such as the National School Boards Association, say 'school choice' sounds good but can pour tax dollars into private hands with little accountability and uncertain educational outcomes while robbing public schools of much needed tax dollars."

But Alexander wonders why vouchers are okay for low-income preschoolers and college students, but not K-12.

"We have vouchers for parents with three and four and five and six year olds...We have vouchers for students who are 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old. And somehow we think there's something wrong with having vouchers for elementary and high school students," he said, according to The Washington Examiner

There is currently no conclusive evidence to determine whether school voucher programs increase academic achievement, but a recent survey has indicated that many Americans are in favor of similar programs.

"A recent survey conducted by Braun Research Inc. for Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, showed that Americans generally support school choice programs.

When surveying participants, 41 percent said they’d prefer a private school, while 36 percent favored public schools. 42 percent also said they have a favorable opinion charter schools, with half as many opposed. School vouchers allegedly also had 39 percent in support, with 25 percent opposing," said

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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