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How School Voucher Programs Hurt Students

In recent months, many states in the U.S. have expanded their efforts to subsidize private school tuition with taxpayer dollars through school voucher programs. However, according to an analyst who has studied school choice for two decades, data from existing voucher programs shows negative outcomes. The primary beneficiaries of most voucher programs are existing private school students, and the students who leave public schools using vouchers experience catastrophic academic results. Private schools that accept voucher payments are often financially distressed, sub-prime providers, and elite private schools with strong academics and large endowments often decline to participate in voucher plans. Additionally, for most students, using a voucher is a temporary choice, with roughly 20% leaving voucher programs each year because they give up the payment or because schools push them out. High turnover rates are bad for children, particularly lower-income and academically struggling ones. Furthermore, voucher schools also rarely enroll children with special academic needs, and private schools have the option to decline admission to children for any reason, with some with explicitly anti-LGBTQ admissions rules. Overall, vouchers are tax subsidies for existing private school families and a tax bailout for struggling private schools, with harmful test score impacts, active discriminatory admissions policies, and a revolving door of enrollment. The recent push for vouchers is partly the result of well-funded campaigns led by Betsy DeVos, the former Education Secretary under Donald Trump who has championed vouchers for decades as an alternative to traditional public education. However, even DeVos has acknowledged the poor track record for vouchers when it comes to academic outcomes.

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