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Issue Brief


Vouchers take scarce funding from students in public schools and give those resources to unaccountable private schools.
Illustration: A pair of hands in a business coat hold a public school building upside down and shake it like a piggy bank. Coins are falling out of the school.
Published: November 2023

No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers.  

This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs. 

Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. 

Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.

Rooted in Segregation and Racism 

Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded.  

The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

If we’re serious about doing what’s right for every child’s future, let's do what works: support public schools so that every student has inviting classrooms, modern technology and textbooks, and class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention.  

Facts About Vouchers

Fact #1

There's no link between vouchers and gains in student achievement

There's no conclusive evidence that vouchers improve the achievement of students who use them to attend private school. Nor is there any validity to claims that, by creating a "competitive marketplace" for students, vouchers force public schools to improve. In fact, the most dramatic improvements in student achievement have occurred in places where vouchers do not exist — such as Texas and Connecticut. Instead, those states and communities focused on teacher quality and extra help for students who need it. Where there is conclusive evidence is that investing more money in public education improves student achievement.
Fact #2

Vouchers undermine accountability for public funds

Private schools have almost complete autonomy with regard to how they operate: who they teach, what they teach, how they teach, how (if at all) they measure student achievement, how they manage their finances, and what they are required to disclose to parents and the public. Moreover, the absence of public accountability for voucher funds has contributed to rampant fraud, waste, and abuse in current voucher programs.
Fact #3

Vouchers do not reduce public education costs

Actually, they increase costs, by requiring taxpayers to fund two school systems, one public and one private. The result is that public schools, which educate 90 percent of students, wind up with less funding. This leads to larger class sizes and fewer resources, such as textbooks, school nurses and counselors, lab equipment, and music and athletic programs.
Fact #4

Vouchers do not give parents real educational choice

Participating private schools may limit enrollment, and in many cases may maintain exclusive admissions policies and charge tuition and fees far above the amount provided by the voucher. Unlike public schools, private and religious schools can — and do — discriminate in admissions on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability, behavioral history, prior academic achievement, standardized test scores, interviews with applicants and parents, and income.
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