MEDIA RELEASE: Voucher proposal would devastate public schools, student success

Decades of research proves voucher proposals undermine student achievement

RALEIGH (April 18, 2013) — North Carolina House members filed a bill on April 15 that would siphon money away from public schools, in what critics say is another attempt by lawmakers to undermine, privatize, and dismantle public education.

House Bill 944, the “Opportunity Scholarship Act,” would offer families $4,200 per year in public funds to attend private or religious schools. Yet despite being purported to help lower-income students, the scholarship will do little to aid these students.

The maximum amount of the scholarship is too low to permit low-income families to pursue many private schools. Low-income families will have to come up with the rest of the money on their own. In states like Georgia that have experimented with similar scholarship programs, participation has not been effectively limited to low income students, and in many cases the programs have served simply as a tuition reduction for higher income families.  Families should not be expected to reach into their pocket to pay for an education when there is a constitutional right to a sound, basic education in our state.

“This scheme is called a scholarship but it is nothing but a voucher system, plain and simple,” said Chris Hill, director of the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project. “Legislators have a constitutional mandate to ensure that all students get a sound basic education, they do not have a mandate to save money for public education, particularly on the backs of North Carolina’s working families.”

Evidence from other states suggests that the voucher program is unlikely to save money in North Carolina.  Because income eligibility limits are so high ($71,000 for a family of four), high-income people who already had every intention of sending their children to private school can use the credit, costing the state thousands of dollars per student.

”There is no evidence that vouchers improve student achievement,” said Matt Ellinwood, policy analyst for the Education & Law Project. ”In districts with the longest-running and most heavily evaluated voucher programs, Milwaukee and Cleveland, public school students are regularly outperforming voucher recipients by a considerable margin.”

Instead of draining $90 million dollars from our traditional public schools for the failed experiment of funding private schools with public money, we should ensure equitable and adequate funding for our public schools, experts say.

These proposals always come with the myth that public schools are failing when the truth is our leaders and elected officials are failing their constitutional responsibilities to provide for public schools by not giving all of our children the chance to a high-quality education which promotes student achievement.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Chris Hill, chill@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2567; Matt Ellinwood, matt@ncjustice.org, 919.861.1465; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).
 

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