Group opposes school vouchers

Published 8:47 am Thursday, April 18, 2013

RALEIGH – An advocate for a first-rate public education system for all North Carolinians has gone on the record to oppose recently introduced legislation calling for a school voucher bill.

In a press release send to this and other newspapers, Public Schools First NC strongly opposes H.B. 944, a bill they say proposes to spend $90 million of taxpayer money over the next two years to subsidize private school tuition. The group – comprised of citizens, parents, teachers, businesses and organizations – alleged that the proposed legislation will take money away from already underfunded public schools, with little accountability to taxpayers.

Vouchers are a failing proposition all around: they fail to help the students who most need them; they provide little benefit for the students who do use them; and they drain resources from the one public institution best situated to educate all children: the public schools, according to the press release.

Public Schools First NC  notes that evidence shows that the intended recipients of voucher programs are seldom the students who make use of them. Even lower to middle income families who try to use the $4,200 voucher will still be left with a tuition balance they cannot afford. Vouchers are more likely to be used by who would be able to choose private schools anyway.

“What many people don’t realize is that vouchers are an effort to educate our kids on the cheap,” said Nick Rhodes, a board member of Public Schools First NC. “Currently, North Carolina spends only about $8,400 per child to educate students in the public schools, which ranks us 48th nationally in terms of per pupil spending. Now the proponents of this bill are saying our kids can be educated for half that amount. Why don’t our kids deserve a high quality education?”

While designed to address student achievement problems, the group says evidence shows that vouchers fail to produce this desired result. The oldest-running voucher program in the U.S. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) demonstrates unequivocally that students who leave the public schools do not perform any better in private or religious schools.

“H.B. 944 is a blatant attempt to tear apart our communities by privatizing education. Vouchers offer the illusion of greater parental choice, but private schools are under no obligation to accept all students, and can even have a religious affiliation,” said Yevonne Brannon, Chair, Public Schools First NC. “Using public dollars to fund schools that cannot serve all students violates the NC Constitution, and is a misuse of public tax dollars. This is a cynical approach to strengthening education and will result in a public school system that is highly segregated by income and race.”

Public education systems build strong communities, the organization touted in its press release. School systems are a tool of economic development; public schools are an anchor for our cities and towns. However, vouchers drain resources from the one institution that must accept and educate all children who walk through their doors: the public schools.

The North Carolina Constitution guarantees a sound basic education to all children. Public Schools First NC says that a $90 million giveaway will have real and serious consequences for the quality of instruction that public schools will provide. The most disadvantaged students are the most likely to remain in public schools, which will be asked to do ever more with less.