Reminder During National School Choice Week: Private School Vouchers Are Not Real “Choice”

National School Choice Week begins this week. Every year, private school voucher proponents use this week to push their pro-voucher agenda under the guise of “school choice.” This year is no different. We think it’s important to know the facts about private school vouchers and how they undermine public education.

The conversation about private school vouchers rose to prominence in 2017 more than ever before. Beginning with the nomination and subsequent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and continuing with studies and investigative reporting demonstrating private school voucher failings, it was difficult to escape the topic. And that’s a good thing, because many of the reasons to oppose vouchers came to the forefront of the discussion.

After Secretary DeVos’ confirmation hearings, for example, the public was talking about the fact that vouchers do not provide adequate services and protections for students, especially for those with disabilities. Public attention to the issue made a recent Government Accountability Office report even more powerful. The report found that voucher programs do not properly inform parents of the rights their child with disabilities will lose under IDEA by using a voucher. This lack of information is most acutely felt by families of students with disabilities, but it cut across all facets of voucher programs.  Indeed, the report determined that voucher programs and voucher schools commonly fail to provide necessary information to prospective families and the public, including such basic information as which schools are accredited, what the schools’ graduation rates are, and whether teachers are trained to provide the special education services they program is intended to provide. In fact, the GAO concluded that the “lack of information can result in parents making incorrect assumptions about private school choice programs and schools.”

National School Choice Week promotes private school vouchers as a means of empowering parents to make choices about their children’s education, but that is not reality. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for parents to make informed choices when they can’t know even the most basic information about the private schools accepting vouchers. Furthermore, it’s the private schools who ultimately have the choice – not parents – about which students they’ll accept or reject. Private voucher schemes send taxpayer money to schools that reject students based on disciplinary history, academic achievement, LGBTQ status, and a host of other factors.

AFSA and the National Coalition for Public Education will continue to fight back against attempts by Congress and the administration to advance private school vouchers. Visit their website and learn more about our advocacy and the latest news on private school vouchers.