Volume 18: Voting in the 2004 Elections
The Voucher Argument
by Erik Jacobson
The federal "No Child Left Behind" law and the school voucher program are two separate things. But, they do work together. Since under "No Child Left Behind," parents have the option to move their kids out of a low-performing school, they could take advantage of the voucher program in order to send their kids to a private school. Some worry that these two policies take steps toward privatizing all of education in the United States.
What is a voucher?
A voucher is credit that is given to parents who want to move their child from a public school to a private school of their choice. Sometimes this credit comes from a private source (like a charitable foundation), but many voucher programs involve moving taxpayers' money from public schools to private schools. The voucher is for a fixed amount (for example, $2,000 a year) that parents can put towards the tuition of the private school (including religious schools). If the school tuition is higher than the amount of the voucher, the parents have to make up the difference. Parents who can afford to send their children to private schools and do so can get a tax-credit. They get money back from the government that subsidizes their child's private schooling.
How is a voucher program different from school choice?
School choice programs allow parents to choose which public school they want their child to attend, usually within one school district. Voucher programs involve transferring money from one school to another, usually from a public school to a private school.
What is the purpose of vouchers?
Supporters of voucher programs believe that parents should have the right to choose where to send their children. They also believe that, if students move from public to private schools, the money that would have been spent on those students should move with them. Supporters of vouchers say that the government should support children, not schools. If schools are not providing good service, why should they receive money? Critics of vouchers programs believe that voucher programs will damage public schools, and not provide the kind of education they promise.
Claims of those who are in favor of vouchers:
Claims of those who are against vouchers:
Erik Jacobson is the director of the Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations at the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants. He is also an ESOL teacher and teacher trainer. He is the co-author of the NCSALL publication, Creating Authentic Materials for the Adult Literacy Classroom, available from NCSALL at World Education.