School voucher applications in the US are some of the major approaches that parents and specific learning institutions consider closer to learning in private schools. The US government beneath president Trump now aims at funding traditional vouchers where college students get scholarships from the state to attend private schools (Vevea). Private faculties are expected to adhere to eligibility criteria as set by the country’s legislature to acquire students under voucher programs. Also, students have to comply with the requirements of legislature governing voucher programs thus unique groups of students are targeted along with those from military families, low-income students, students with disabilities, and college students learning in low performing schools.
School Vouchers In the US and Why They Are Not Effective
With the Trump’s pick for Betsy DeVos as the US education secretary, various voucher programs are likely to be witnessed in a major way – DeVos who is a Republican fundraiser has always backed school vouchers in the country. DeVos’ appointment to US Education Department has been received with fierce objections from teachers unions, Senate Democrats and others. On the other hand, Trump administration on DeVos pick has been viewed by the proponents as an opportunity to bring back the vouchers towards improving education and promoting the idea in the US. The issue of school vouchers has raised a lot of concerns following the criticisms from different opponents. Vouchers have never worked in the past and has lots of challenges thus vouchers are not effective and do not work.
Betsy DeVos has always been guided by the mantra of competition, choice and opportunity both in Michigan and nationally. DeVos has backed initiatives that target the expansion of charters in public schools and even limit regulation and oversight of charters across US. In addition, DeVos advocates for voucher programs and tuition tax credits that rely on the public money to pay for students’ private school fees (Hutchinson 9). Surprisingly, DeVos strongly supported vouchers for the private schools in Michigan, an initiative that failed at ballot. Other groups and organizations, she has helped run and support including AFC has also had a similar agenda of pushing free-market choice ideas. The other area of interest from which important education policies might be developed is the Great Lakes Education Project. The group offers support portability and full choice options – children should be allowed to move with their state or federal dollars to schools of their choice without any restriction. Both charter plans and vouchers supported by DeVos deprive the public schools of the necessary funds and promote profit-making at the expense of learning. For instance, about 80 percent of charter schools located in Michigan is for profit. Compared to other regions in the US, Michigan forms the highest percentage of schools that are profit-oriented and register poor performance:
On vouchers, Harris points to the data: A large study his research center conducted shows that students who got vouchers in Louisiana’s statewide program saw their test scores drop 8 to 16 percentile points. Michigan doesn’t have vouchers – despite efforts by DeVos to create them (Westervelt).
Michigan is one of the states that embraced charter schools early enough (about two decades ago), encouraging and advocating for improvements among public schools should there be a competition and more choices among parents. Hence, one would expect that Michigan should be in a better place than any other state. However, there have been negative results since time memorial and today charter school in the region are the worst in the US. In most cases, accountability has been a major problem in Michigan state schools and one would ask whether DeVos would help solve the mess that has existed for about 25 years and eventual bring light to students. According to Douglas Harris, DeVos has always proposed ideas that are not promising, do not work in the American society and are worse off than any other alternative (Westervelt). School vouchers do not embrace external oversight to ensure that students are enrollment takes place in the most fair way possible – school vouchers are not effective in providing services to students without compromising the morals of justice and fairness. Both private and public schools should be subjected to same standards for academic accountability since both compete for same resources and students.
The US tax-credit structure is another significant area when looking into the eventual impacts of a DeVos-run Education Department. Vouchers programs could be an avenue that parents and other stakeholders in the various learning institutions across the country would use to select between private and public schools, especially at the federal level. Such approach could be aimed at incurring less expenditure in implementing the different programs. However, there is no adequate money that is mutual interchangeable from the budget of the federal education department. Consequently, educational programs at different category of schools cannot be run smoothly and efficiently due to lack of adequate funds. In the long run, the whole idea of school vouchers does not seem effective.
In the popular Florida program, for example, the number of students awarded scholarships in the academic year 2015-2016 rose by about 17 percent compared to the previous year (Westervelt). Notably, a high percentage of the recipients of the various scholarship programs were Hispanic and African-America, majority who had relatively low incomes (incomes just above the poverty level). Also, about 70 percent of such programs are usually directed at religious, mainly the Christian schools. American Federation for Children (AFC) awarded Florida program for its effort to ensure eligibility, and attempt to reach out to many families from the low class. Further, such programs have been helpful in creating tax breaks to US donors and providing a variety of scholarship to students.
Nevertheless, not everyone in the US appreciate the efforts of voucher programs such as Florida program due to its violating nature – different groups such as League of Women Voters and teachers union have attempted to challenge major efforts of voucher proponents since the programs violate students’ constitutional right to undergo a uniform education. The majority of students especially, those who are not favored by voucher programs to some extent feel discouraged and inferior due to the different education they are exposed to. In most cases, schools that receive the funds to offer scholarships tend to operate independently and do not adhere to a uniform curriculum (state curriculum). Having students undergo different curriculums is not fair enough in testing the students’ qualifications and skills, especially in the job market.
The other failure of school vouchers in the US is that students do not undergo testing. The majority of private schools under voucher programs only adhere to certain standardized test instead of the state test (Vevea). Tests are important aspects of learning and students must be tested to find out their level of understanding, which helps in determining the students’ mastery of the subject area. Besides, students have a tendency to read hard and get prepared for tests unlike when tests are not there. Therefore, it is only necessary that students do several tests to boost their knowledge in a particular area. On the contrary, in a DeVos-run Education system where voucher schools do not have to adhere to same rules, most of the learning activities are done in the best way determined by the education stakeholders. Moreover, voucher schools do not hire certified teachers. The teacher is a critical aspect of learning and must be there to pass knowledge and necessary information to students to learn. For instance, teachers ensure discipline and the general development and growth of students thus require proper training and certification. Such preparation is crucial in building self-confidence among teachers and be knowledgeable enough to deliver to students. Therefore, it goes without saying that hiring unqualified or uncertified teachers is a sure way to poor performance.
There is fear that school voucher programs are likely to destroy the traditional public learning institutions in the US and lead to the separation of state and church (Hutchinson 9). With voucher programs, there is a lot of focus on religion than the state, where learning resources are distributed along religious lines. Similarly, the whole experience takes place based on the existing religions in the society. Closely connected to the destruction is the question of regulations – it is not a requirement for private schools to offer similar services as those in public schools, services to students with disabilities, bilingual education, and English classes. The lack of common denominator creates a gap between private and public schools and has only resulted in discrimination among the students. Despite the special services and resources offered by voucher programs, there is no much difference between students from public and private schools – the counterparts who move from the public learning institutions do not do worse or better, instead, the public schools they leave register little improvements, students who remain behind in the public schools are motivated to work hard and perform better than their counterparts. Notably, most students in private schools with voucher programs perform worse compared to those in public schools.
School voucher programs enable parents to pay part or full tuition fee of their children. Such programs are subject to politics thus face fierce objections or scrutiny from different parties or individuals in the society. In the United States, the school voucher programs since time memorial have never resulted in benefits to the targeted population. For instance, there has been poor performance, lack of accountability, among other challenges in private schools. A Republican billionaire and donor Betsy DeVos, who has supported the idea of school vouchers even in Michigan has never succeeded in making the anticipated improvements in the American society. With the Trump’s pick of DeVos as the country’s education secretary, more efforts towards promoting voucher programs will be witnessed. However, voucher programs are prone to uncertified/unqualified teachers, inadequate testing, dismal performance, and separation of church and state, among others. Consequently, school voucher programs are not effective and do not work.
Westervelt, Eric. Trump’s Pick for Education: A Free Market Approach to School Choice, nprEd, Dec. 7, 2016. Accessed on May 12, 2017. Web.
Hutchinson, Sikivu. “Segregation Now and Forever: Betsy DeVos and the Looting of Public Education.” The Humanist 77.1 (2017): 9. Print.
Vevea, Becky. What is a School voucher? GreatSchools.org, March 7, 2016. Accessed 5, 2017. Web.