Georgia will likely see another legislative attempt at vouchers next session, something that thus far has failed to gain much traction in the General Assembly.
An investigation by the Washington Post will likely revive the debate over whether we should allow parents to receive tax dollars to pay for private schools, especially religious schools.
Most vouchers do not cover the full cost of private school tuition. So, many parents in areas with vouchers send their children to parochial schools, which typically charge less than other private schools. And, indeed, many of the families receiving vouchers in Washington send their kids to Catholic schools.
But what folks don’t consider is that once vouchers are approved for one religious school, they can’t legally be denied to others. Taxpayers could find their money going to schools run by cults equivalent to the Branch Davidians.
The Post found vouchers going to quite an array of schools.
Here is an excerpt of the piece: (Please read the entire story before commenting.)
Congress created the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program in the District to give the city’s poorest children a chance at a better education than their neighborhood schools offer.
But a Washington Post review found that hundreds of students use their voucher dollars to attend schools that are unaccredited or are in unconventional settings, such as a family-run K-12 school operating out of a storefront, a Nation of Islam school based in a converted Deanwood residence, and a school built around the philosophy of a Bulgarian psychotherapist.
Yet the government has no say over curriculum, quality or management. And parents trying to select a school have little independent information, relying mostly on marketing from the schools. The director of the nonprofit organization that manages the D.C. vouchers on behalf of the federal government calls quality control “a blind spot.”
“We’ve raised the question of quality oversight of the program as sort of a dead zone, a blind spot,” said Ed Davies, interim executive director of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. “Currently, we don’t have that authority. It doesn’t exist.”
Republicans in Congress established the D.C. voucher program eight years ago to demonstrate the school-choice concepts that the party has been espousing since the 1950s. Vouchers were once thought to be moribund, but came roaring to life in 2010 in states where Republicans took control. Fourteen states have created voucher programs or expanded existing ones in recent years.
Some states, such as Wisconsin, now include middle-class families in their voucher programs. Other states, including Virginia, have begun indirectly steering public dollars to private schools by offering tax credits to those who donate to scholarship funds.
In some cases, the public has pushed back against the idea of routing state dollars from public to private schools. Legal challenges are pending in Colorado and Indiana. In the November elections, Florida voters rejected a ballot amendment that would have permitted tax dollars to flow to religious institutions, including parochial schools. That would have enabled the state to revive a voucher program that had been declared unconstitutional in 2006 by its highest court. Yet Florida continues to offer vouchers for disabled students who want to attend private schools and awards tax credits to corporations that donate to private-school scholarship programs.
But the most comprehensive study of the D.C. program found “no conclusive evidence” that the vouchers improved math and reading test scores for those students who left their public schools. The study, released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010, found that voucher students were more likely to graduate than peers without vouchers, based on data collected from families. And parents reported that their children were safer attending the private schools, though the students themselves perceived no difference.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog