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Statement on School Vouchers

Charter schools, vouchers, and other “choice” options redirect public money to privately operated education enterprises, which often operate for profit. That harms public schools by siphoning off students, resources, and funding while reducing the ability of your public schools to serve the full range of student needs and interests.

When schools lose students, they have to cut services. Because schools can’t reduce expenses incrementally, they cut support staff – such as a reading specialist or librarian – and courses – such as art and music – that engage the diverse needs and interests of students.

In Nashville, TN, an independent research firm MGT of America estimated the net negative fiscal impact of charter school growth on the district’s public schools result in more than $300 million in direct costs to public schools over a five-year period.

Another study by MGT in Los Angeles, CA found district public schools lost $591 million due to dropping enrollment rates among students who leave and go to charters.

Privatizers Believe: Money should follow the child; I Believe: Children should not have a price tag.
Privatizers Believe: Parents need choice; I Believe: Parents need a guarantee of high-quality schools, close to home, for every child.
Privatizers Believe: Parents should vote with their feet; I Believe: Parents should have a voice in schools that serve the whole community.
Privatizers Believe: School governance should be corporate; I Believe: Communities should govern schools by electing school boards.

Another problem is that school vouchers are little more than a backdoor way for the government to subsidize religious and other private schools. Under most voucher bills, private schools can take taxpayer money and still deny admission to any student they choose. Unlike public schools, private schools can and do discriminate against students based on various criteria, including religion, disability, economic background, academic record, English language ability or disciplinary history. Public funds should pay only for public schools that are open to all children and accountable to the people.

In other words, vouchers force Americans to pay taxes to support religion. This runs counter to the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. In America, all religious activities should be supported with voluntary contributions.

In any policy discussion of education, the goal should be to provide the best possible system for all children, given the resources available. While alternatives to public schools may provide better options for some children, on the whole, charter and voucher schools perform no better than the public school system, and often worse. At they same time they have a negative fiscal impact on existing public schools, and are creating a parallel school system that duplicates services and costs. Let’s stop draining our public schools and work together to strengthen them instead.

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