We are watching carefully as bills are introduced on the legislative website, and among the things we’ll be watching for is anything that smacks of a voucher.
Warning: a voucher by any other name is still a voucher. And it’s a bad deal for public school children.
Vouchers divert taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools. Taxpayers have roundly rejected the use of vouchers to funnel public funds away from our public schools to pay for private school tuition; in fact, the practice is prohibited in Mississippi’s constitution (see that here). So proponents have come up with creative names that they believe make voucher programs sound more acceptable, like “tax credit scholarships,” “opportunity scholarships,” and even “education savings accounts.”
Vouchers have been allowed in a number of states, the results have been studied repeatedly, and they’ve been shown to be a failure. Read more here. Vouchers rob funds from already strapped public schools and provide taxpayers no return. Studies show consistently that kids who get vouchers and go to private schools perform no better than the kids who stayed in the public school system.
There’s a dirty little secret that school choice advocates don’t want you to know…
Vouchers are touted as a way to let parents choose the best schools for their children, but don’t be fooled – when it comes to school choice, it isn’t parents who do the choosing. Though parents can apply, parents do not get to choose the schools their children will attend. It’s the private schools that do the choosing. Private schools that participate in voucher programs are not required to admit the students who apply; the schools are allowed to pick and choose the students they want. And private schools almost always charge more tuition than the voucher will cover. Guess who gets chosen…
Virtually identical bills for vouchers and other “school choice” initiatives are showing up in state legislatures across the country. They are the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a corporate bill mill that is funded by large for-profit corporations that want to make a buck (many, many bucks) off of taxpayer dollars. Education funding is one of ALEC’s favorite targets.
The wealthy corporate execs that run ALEC court state legislators to join their group. They donate to political campaigns and treat these elected officials to “meetings” at swanky resorts. At these ALEC conventions, corporations (often tech companies that aim to sell their software or other products to schools) hand state legislators their wish lists – model legislation written to benefit their bottom line. Examples of education-related ALEC legislation are:
- Bills that direct school funding toward the purchase of software sold by ALEC’s corporate members
- Bills that require school districts to purchase assessments sold by ALEC’s corporate members
- Bills that require public education students to take at least one on-line course (offered by – guess who…ALEC’s corporate members!)
- Voucher, tax credit scholarship, and education savings account (neo-voucher) bills
- Bills allowing for-profit charter schools (run by – you guessed it… ALEC members!)
The list goes on and on. Here is a link to ALEC’s recent education task force meeting agenda and its model education legislation for the coming year – the bills that ALEC has told state legislators it would really like to see passed (wink, wink).
We’ll be keeping an eye of all of this for you, and we’ll let you know if any of our Mississippi legislators introduce ALEC legislation. In the meantime, you might tell your legislators that sending public education dollars to private schools is unacceptable – and unconstitutional.