Archives for category: Vouchers

Paul Horton, history teacher at the University of Chicago Lab School, has written a powerful essay explaining why the free-market is an inappropriate model for school reform.

He writes about the history of “neoliberalism” and the free market reforms it encouraged:

Though the newly formed Carter administration’s Department of Education refused to grant federal money to parochial schools because it feared that vouchers would only further encourage rapid white flight from desegregating public schools, especially in the South, the nascent religious right began to organize around the issue of vouchers. Richard Viguerie famously energized the Moral Majority around such related wedge issues desegregation, vouchers for religious schools, and “family values.”

Not surprisingly, market ideas about education were embraced by a Reagan administration that rode the wave of the “Moral Majority” and “the southern strategy” pioneered by George Wallace and Richard Nixon to victory in 1980. Initially supporting a policy of education decentralization and local control, the Reagan Education Department shifted to supporting standardized testing following the publication of the 1983 Nation at Risk report that portrayed public education in the United States as rapidly deteriorating.

In fact, however, the 70s push to integrate schools had resulted in the highest gains to date achieved in closing the achievement gap between African American and Latinos and whites. But the Nation at Risk report focused on declining ACT and SAT test scores and the threat to economic development and national security that would result from a decline of American education. Corporate and Reagan administration leaders like William Bennett sought to use the Nation at Risk report to push a Sputnik like response in a national education program that emphasized national standardized curricula and tests, vouchers, and merit pay.

Clearly, the Reagan administration proposed Friedmanesque market solutions in legislation, but congress did not buy in. But Reagan’s second Secretary of Education, Bennett, created the model for Federal education policy that is pretty much followed today by the Obama administration: Federally supported standardized testing, support for charter schools, data driven teacher assessments, and merit pay. Under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act these ideas were institutionalized and supported famously by a coalition of liberals led by senator Edward Kennedy and Republican senators and governors who demanded an end to the “liberal racism” of low expectations.

President Obama has embraced all of these ideas and added his support with Secretary Duncan’s “Race to the Top” that also incentivizes state support for charter schools and state adoption of the Common Core Curriculum that attempts to build a foundation for linguistic and mathematical literacy. (Valerie Strauss, “Ronald Reagan’s Impact on Education Today,” Washington Post, 2-6-11) Obama, however, has stopped short of endorsing vouchers even though vouchers would accelerate the growth of charter schools.

Horton points out that the major mainstream media has swallowed the free-market reforms: The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal. Anything called “reform,” no matter how noxious, is supported by them.

Furthermore, financiers have become enthusiastic supporters of the profit making possibilities of privatization:

Here in Chicago, for example, President Obama’s best friend, Martin Nesbitt, has started a venture capital firm called the Vistria Group that promises to create portfolios for investment in charter schools. Not surprisingly, he and many of the members of Chicago’s Commercial Club (known to locals as the “billionaire’s club), including Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and current Republican governor Bruce Rauner are very enthusiastic about charter school investment based only their experience in organizing and operating the Noble Charter chain. Another of Chicago’s wealthiest families, the Crowns, who own controlling interest in the Chicago Bulls and the Empire State Building, actively invest in charter school “portfolios.” (Google “Crown Foundation”).

In portfolio managed schools like the Noble Charter Schools, the emphasis in teaching and learning is on “practices and discourses of test preparation, including regular test practice, routinized and formulaic instruction, emphasis on discrete (tested) skills, substitution for test prep materials for regular texts, and differential attention to students based on their likelihood of passing high stakes tests,” according to sociologist Pauline Lipman in her book, The New Political Economy of Urban Education. (128)

My teacher informants who decided that they could no longer teach at the Noble Charter schools confirm the above description and insist, “the stress is on rote learning to increase scores and not on what could be called deeper levels of learning. The Noble Charters are not looking for creative teachers, they are looking for teachers who will simply read from a script.”

The rallying cry of the neoliberals is “choice” but for most parents, “choice” is not real. The schools choose, the parents don’t.

Why are the powerful so interested in promoting privatization?

The pressure to require choice that discourages meaningful political change is more often than not top down: reformers like Gates supply funds for astroturf organizing in favor of school choice and hedge fund managers fund “reform” front groups like Democrats for Education Reform and staff them with successful African American strivers who are true believers.

The prominence of education choice ideology is primarily the product of the demands made on politicians by the wealthy. A private equity manager told Chrystia Freedland, author of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, about a heated exchange between a leading Democrat and a hedge fund manager: “Screw you,” he told the lawmaker. “Even if you change the legislation the government won’t get a single penny more from me in taxes. I’ll put my money in a foundation and spend it on good causes. My money isn’t going to be wasted in your deficit sinkhole.”

Foundations that funnel large sums of investment into promoting market “reforms” in education provide both a tax benefit to the wealthy and create emerging markets for investment in stocks that the wealthy are betting on.

Neoliberal education reform is thus pushed by the work of foundations that cater to the whims of millionaires and billionaires, and they are having their way. Many of the presidential appointees to Arne Duncan’s Department of Education were former employees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, most prominently James Shelton III and Joanne Weiss. Large numbers of representatives from the Broad Foundation that trained Secretary Duncan as an administrator were present at meetings to determine how education policy could best benefit from the proposed American Recovery Act. Silicon Valley executives and Wall Street brokers who want a piece of the emerging privatized education market are gung-ho on heavy charter school and STEM programs for schools. And Pearson Education has done its best to corner every sector of the emerging education marketplace while managing to avoid having to write competitive impact statements when winking at a friendly Justice Department that has been told by Mr. Gates and Mr. Duncan that “scaling up” and standardizing will introduce more market efficiencies and will lead to the greater economic good, the Chicago Law and Economics mantra.

Horton cites several books that demonstrate the superiority of public schools over charter schools. But no one in the Obama administration is listening.

Sheryll Cashin, professor of law at Georgetown, in her well-reviewed recent book, Place not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America agrees, and argues that Obama education policy has “failed.” She insists that public and charter schools do not overcome the neighborhood effects that Milton Friedman said they would. “I call it undertow. A child surrounded by poverty is not exposed to other kids with big dreams and a realistic understanding of how working hard in school will translate into success years later.” (31)

A more recent longitudinal peer reviewed study supports Cashin’s point. Sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth and the Transition to Adulthood, argues that resources in African American neighborhoods do not match resources available in blue collar white neighborhoods, especially when it comes to mentorship and networking that will match 14 and 15 year olds with job prospects. The authors of the Long Shadow Report argue that impoverished schools need more supports and that the country’s leaders need to restart a serious discussion about integration that goes beyond the selective enrollment and magnet school approaches. (

The fact that our political leaders refuse to promote policies that would integrate schools beyond race and class lines, or as Ms. Cashin says by “place not race,” is the most profound indictment of the market approach to education.

This critique is echoed by Economist Ha-Joon Chang of the University of Cambridge who argues that the pure market approach of neoliberals is shortsighted because “they use rules of thumb (heuristics) to focus on a small number of possible moves, in order to reduce the number of scenarios that need to be analysed, even though the excluded moves may have brought better results.” (23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, 175)

Chang also has doubts about the idea that increasing test scores will lead to higher rates of productivity or more wealth for the United States, “Education is valuable, but the main value is not in raising productivity. It lies in its ability to help us develop our potentials and live a more fulfilling and independent life…the link between education and productivity is rather tenuous and complicated.” (189)

Horton adds that the privatizers refuse to admit that their ideas have failed. Instead, they step up their efforts to test more, privatize more, as we now see in frenzied efforts to copy New Orleans, Tennessee’s Achievement School District, and incessant testing. Market reform has failed, but its sponsors refuse to see the results of their policies.

The biggest problem with the education privatizers is that they have no sense of limits. They have invested a great deal of capital in ideas that do not work as well as they had hoped. They do not want to think that they are throwing good money after negative results, so they are manipulating the levers of power and the national press to create the impression that their efforts still have potential.

The big question at this juncture somewhat desperately becomes, when will they simply accept their losses? As usual, philosopher and poet Wendell Berry offers us sage advice on the issue of education privatization or anything else:

“The danger of the ideal of competition is that it neither proposes nor implies any limits. It proposes simply to lower costs at any cost, and to raise profits at any cost. It does not hesitate at the destruction of the life of a family or the life of a community. It pits neighbor against neighbor as readily as it pits buyer against seller. Every transaction is meant to involve a winner or a loser. And for this reason the human economy is pitted without limit against nature. For in the unlimited competition of neighbor and neighbor, buyer and seller, all available means must be used; none may be spared.” (What are People For?, 131)”

Opting out of standardized testing for many thus is a very “rational choice” to combat the irrationality of the market “reform” of education in the United States. Opting out of irrational, profit-driven “education reform” is rather simply a measure of the persistence of sanity within a society that instinctively resists the slimy tentacles of plutocracy.

Jonas Persson of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports on a panel discussion in Néw Orleans about speeding up the dismantling of public education.

The event was a conference sponsored by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children, celebrating the privatization of Néw Orleans schools.

The panel Persson describes was called “Knocking out Yesterday’s Education Models” but a panelist “joked that the working title of the panel had been “What Happens After You Blow it All Up?”

Persson writes:

“But in the absence of a new hurricane that would sweep away public schools, a man-made calamity might do the trick. Such was the argument of Rebecca Sibilia, who is the CEO of a new non-profit education group: Edbuild.

“When you think of bankruptcy … this is a huge opportunity. Bankruptcy is not a problem for kids; bankruptcy is a problem for the people governing the system, right? So, when a school district goes bankrupt all of their legacy debt can be eliminated . . . How are we going to pay for the buildings? How are we going to bring in new operators when there is pension debt? Look, if we can eliminate that in an entire urban system, then we can throw all the cards up in the air, and redistribute everything with all new models. You’ve heard it first: bankruptcy might be the thing that leads to the next education revolution,” Sibilia explained.”

This has already happened in Chester Uplands, Pennsylvania, where the district’s exorbitant payments to charter schools has brought it to fiscal collapse, requiring a loan from the state to make payroll. It could happen in cities like Philadelphia and even Los Angeles, as the charter sector siphons away the best students and resources that cause the district to cut programs and lay off teachers.

At some point the tipping point comes, and the parasite sucks the life out of the host. That’s the reformers’ end game,

– See more at:

The Walton Family Foundation gave away $375 million last year. It gave away $202 million to educational groups.

The foundation’s money is generated by the vast earnings of Walmart. The foundation was established in 1987 by Sam Walton. At least six of the Walton family members are billionaires, maybe more. As they die off, the foundation will grow larger.

The leader of the education part of the Walton Foundation is Marc Sternberg, who worked for Joel Klein in the Néw York City Department of Education. From 2010 to 2013, Sternberg was in charge of school closures and charter co-locations inside public schools.

The foundation is not only very wealthy, it has an ideology. It is rightwing. It is reactionary. It does not like public schools. It favors privatization and deregulation, which is what you might expect of a powerful corporation that hates government telling it what to do (like paying its employees a living wage). It hates unions. It loves charters and vouchers.

You might ask, how can billionaires sleep at night when they know their employees are surviving on meager earnings? I don’t know. Maybe they don’t think about it. Maybe they say, “Tough. That’s life. Life is unfair. Where’s my Bentley?”

I think you will find it enlightening to see where its money went in the 2014 year.

The biggest chunks went to Teach for America and KIPP.

Here are some of the many beneficiaries of the Walton family’s largesse:


50CAN, INC. ($2.5 MILLION);
MIND TRUST ($500,000); Indianapolis
TEACH PLUS ($250,000);
THE NEW YORK TIMES ($150,000);

In addition,


The latest from Nevada, where the ACLU-Nevada is already suing to block vouchers. Another suit is filed:

ALERT! Public School Parents And Children File Lawsuit To Declare Nevada Vouchers Unconstitutional
Vouchers Violate Nevada Constitutional Ban on Diverting Public School Funding to Private Schools

Today, five parents whose children attend Nevada public schools filed a lawsuit challenging the State’s new voucher law – Senate Bill 302. The lawsuit claims that the voucher law violates the Nevada Constitution’s explicit ban on using public school funding for private schools. The lawsuit also seeks to permanently block the State Treasurer from implementing the voucher program.

In enacting SB302, the Nevada Legislature authorized the most expansive program of private school vouchers in the United States. The voucher law directs the State Treasurer to deposit funds appropriated by the Legislature for the operation of the Nevada public schools into private accounts to pay for private school tuition, online classes, home-based curriculums and related expenses, tutoring, transportation to and from private schools, and other private expenses.

The parents and students filed the lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, in the First Judicial District Court in Carson City. More public school parents and their children are expected to join the lawsuit in the coming weeks.

Educate Nevada Now (ENN), a campaign of The Rogers Foundation, assembled a team of experienced Nevada and national attorneys to ensure that Nevada law protects and advances education opportunities for all children. ENN is supporting this lawsuit because it addresses using public funding for private schools, an issue of vital importance to all Nevada public school children and taxpayers – and one that must be resolved by the Nevada courts.

“The Nevada Constitution makes it crystal clear that the funding provided for our public schools can only be used to operate those schools, and not for any other purpose,” said Justin Jones, an attorney with Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman & Rabkin LLP, Nevada-based pro bono counsel for the plaintiffs. “The voucher law, by taking funding out of the public schools to pay for private school tuition and other private services, blatantly violates this explicit mandate enshrined in our state constitution.”

The parents and students contend that the voucher law violates the Education Article of the Nevada Constitution in three ways:

⦁ The voucher law by its terms diverts funds earmarked by the Legislature exclusively for the operation of the public schools to pay for private schools and other private expenditures.

⦁ The voucher law reduces State-guaranteed funding for the public schools below the level determined to be sufficient by the Legislature in the biennium budgets.

⦁ The voucher law allows public school funding to pay for private schools that do not have to comply with the “uniform” non-discrimination, education performance and accountability standards all Nevada public schools must follow.

The parents filed the lawsuit to prevent loss of funding from their children’s public schools to pay for private schools. Under SB302, even families who can readily afford to pay the full cost of private school tuition are eligible to receive public funds. The voucher law will reduce funding for the public schools while at the same time requiring those schools to educate a higher concentration of high needs children, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students at risk due to family and neighborhood poverty, homelessness, transiency and other disadvantages.

“The voucher law undermines our uniform system of public schools which the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to maintain and support with sufficient funding,” said Sylvia Lazos, Policy Director for Educate Nevada Now. “This lawsuit does not challenge the right of parents to choose a private or religious school for their child. But it does seek to ensure that public school funding is not diverted and depleted by subsidizing that choice.”

The complaint filed today complements the lawsuit filed by ACLU-Nevada last week to block the use of taxpayer funds for religious schooling but raises a separate and independent basis under the Nevada constitution for invalidating the voucher law.

In addition to the Wolf, Rifkin attorneys, David Sciarra and Amanda Morgan of the non-profit Education Law Center (ELC) in Newark, NJ, and Las Vegas, a partner in the ENN campaign, are representing the students and parents. They are also represented pro bono by Tamerlin Godley, Litigation Partner, and associates from Munger, Tolles and Olson in Los Angeles.

Read the complaint.

Vouchers are a bad idea, and the public doesn’t support them. Time after time, vouchers have been put on state ballots, and every single time they have been defeated. They were defeated overwhelmingly in Utah in 2007, with 62%-38% of the vote, and defeated most recently in Florida in 2012, by a vote of 58%-42%. Yet, with the help of the far-right ALEC and its model legislation, several state legislatures have created voucher programs without going to the voters. Even in states that explicitly ban the use of public funds for religious institutions, the legislatures have coined some euphemism like “opportunity scholarship” or, as in Nevada, “education savings accounts.” A voucher is a voucher is a voucher.

I tweeted this message; I hope you will too: Should taxpayer $ go to religious schools? @ACLUNV says no & Nevada agrees. Support separation of church & state!

Here is an appeal from the ACLU:

Last week we filed a major lawsuit against the state of Nevada to stop the voucher program that diverts taxpayer funds to religious schools. The program was passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed by Governor Sandoval this year.

Parents have a right to send their children to religious schools, but they are not entitled to do so at taxpayers’ expense. Do you want your tax dollars going to fund a parent’s preferred religious school choice? We don’t and that’s why we are suing to stop it.

Proponents of the new program bristle at our use of the term “voucher” instead of their preferred description of “education savings accounts,” but we do that because we know better — these accounts will do nothing to save education, but will in fact destroy education across the state. Is it any wonder why this program was written and proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)?

In just three short days we have seen those who seek to dismantle public education and divert education money to private religious purposes attack us and the plaintiffs for daring to thwart their plans. They are even attacking Ruby Duncan, the lead plaintiff and longtime civil rights, education, and welfare rights champion. What these pro-voucher forces don’t know is how firmly we believe this voucher program violates the separation of church and state and how resolute Ruby is in standing up for kids and providing them the education that they deserve. Ruby was honored when a school was named after her to recognize all the work she has done in making sure every child is educated and now they want to question her motives.

Share this victory with your friends, family, and any allies that believe that liberty is only possible when the separation of church and state is secure.


Tod Story
Executive Director
ACLU of Nevada

P.S. Lawsuits are hard work, they require resources, and take time, but we are in this until the end. We need your help in ensuring we can fight this battle all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court. Donate now to help provide the resources we need in this battle — and in all our efforts to protect your rights.

Governor Scott Walker continues his war of attrition against public education, especially in Milwaukee. Despite the fact that the public schools of Milwaukee outperform its voucher schools, Walker is cutting the budget of the more effective public schools and increasing funding for the less effective voucher schools.

The following article was written by Molly Beck of the Wisconsin State Journal.

“The state will spend $258 million in the 2016-17 school year on private school vouchers, a new estimate shows.
At the same time, the amount of state aid sent to public schools will be reduced by $83 million to offset the voucher spending, for a net cost to the state of $175 million, according to an analysis drafted by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in response to a request from Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who opposes vouchers.

“The amount spent each year on vouchers will have increased by 77 percent next school year over 2011 levels, according to the estimate, as lawmakers have expanded the number of vouchers available to students and where they can be used.

“The amount of money spent has risen from $146 million in the 2011-12 school year to $236 million this school year.
The state spent $5.2 billion on public schools in 424 school districts last school year, according to the LFB, when it spent $213 million on vouchers used in 159 private schools.

“Over the six school years, $1.2 billion will be spent on school vouchers and about $30.6 billion will be sent to public schools during the same time, according to LFB and Department of Public Instruction data.

“The number of students using school vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment grew to 873,531 in the 2013-14 school year before decreasing last school year.

“Gov. Scott Walker and Republican lawmakers have created new voucher programs in Racine and statewide to join the program in Milwaukee, created in 1990 as the country’s first.

“Milwaukee and Racine school districts have been allowed to raise property taxes to offset their reductions in state aid.

“Starting this school year, each voucher used outside of Milwaukee will be paid for using aid set aside for school districts. The districts won’t be able to raise taxes to make up the money, but will be able to start counting students using vouchers in their enrollment to determine state aid levels and revenue limits.

“Voucher payments are $7,210 for K-8 students $7,856 for high school students.

“Earlier this year, the LFB estimated between $600 and $800 million could be diverted from public schools over the next 10 years.”

The Wisconsin government has slashed funding for K-12 public schools while expanding and enriching the state’s voucher program. This is a clear-cut victory for ALEC, the corporate-funded lobby for privatization.

“Since Republicans took over our state Capitol in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K-12 education. Under this latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did last budget cycle and Wisconsin is spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008.

“Yet for the private school special interests, this budget was like Christmas morning, with presents that blew the student enrollment caps off the statewide private school voucher program, diverted an additional $600-800 million from public schools over the next decade and increased per-pupil spending in the statewide private voucher system more than what even Governor Walker had proposed. The cherry on top was the last minute, late night passage of the special needs voucher program, which funds private schools for special needs students without requiring specialized instruction, teacher training or current legal protections.”

Way to go, Scott Walker, in meeting your goal of destroying public education. Way to go in destroying a historic democratic institution.

At last! Three civil liberties groups have sued to block the implementation of “education savings accounts” in Nevada, which are vouchers that will be used in religious schools.

LAS VEGAS – Three civil liberties organizations filed suit today in Nevada District Court to challenge a school voucher program signed into law last June by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued on behalf of a group of parents, clergy, and other taxpayers who oppose the program’s effort to divert taxpayer money to private, religious schools.

“Parents have a right to send their children to religious schools, but they are not entitled to do so at taxpayers’ expense. The voucher program violates the Nevada Constitution’s robust protections against the use of public funds for religious education,” said Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “This program allows public money to be spent at intuitions which operate with sectarian missions and goals and impart sectarian curricula. This is exactly what the Nevada Constitution forbids.”

Under the program, parents of students enrolled in public school for at least 100 days may transfer their children to participating private schools, including religious schools, and are eligible to receive thousands of dollars in public education funds to pay for tuition, textbooks, and other associated costs. The funds will be disbursed through so-called “Education Savings Accounts,” and there are no restrictions on how participating schools can use the money.

The lawsuit argues that the funding scheme violates Article XI Section 10 of the Nevada Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds for any sectarian purpose. The lawsuit also claims that the program runs afoul of Article XI, Section 2, which requires the legislature to provide for a uniform system of common schools.

“The voucher program will use taxpayer dollars for religious education and indoctrination at a number of religious schools, many of which discriminate in admissions and employment,” said Heather L. Weaver, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The program would be a huge loss for religious liberty if implemented.”

Daniel Luzer, the news editor of Governing magazine, reviews Arizona’s voucher program, enacted almost 20 years ago.

Competition was supposed to be a game-changer. Advocates said it would cost the state only $4.5 million a year and would lift the performance of minority students.

None of that was true.

The program now costs $140 million a year, and there has been little change in test scores for minorities.

It was a giveaway to the wealthy, who managed to save money on their taxes.

Luzer writes in Washington Monthly:

Over the 20 years the state’s education performance has gotten a little better, but that’s also occurred in pretty much every state in the country. The state has seen no significant improvements, either for students in general or ethnic minorities, as a result of the private school fund.

Another problem is that this fund is a way to avoid taxes. People or businesses can take care of their tax budgets by just dropping some money in the education slush fund. And that deprives the state of money it needs to operate.

In fiscal 2014, the most recent year available, Arizonans claimed $84 million in individual tax credits. Corporations claimed another $39 million.

But that’s a whole lot of money that they’re not paying for other things, funds Arizona needs to operate other programs.

The other, perhaps more serious, result, according to the article, is the state now essentially runs a tax scheme under which people and companies can avoid paying taxes (which pay for public schools) by contributing money into a fund that pays for a few people to pay for private schools.

Only about 3 percent of the money is designated specifically for special-needs students. And 32 percent of the scholarship money given through the individual tax-credit programs goes to children of “low income” families, defined as those earning 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $44,862 for a family of four…. The corporate tax credit for “low income” families has a more-generous definition — a family of four can earn as much as $82,996.

That’s because private school enrollment in the state is actually going down, and public school enrollment is increasing.

And meanwhile almost 70 percent of that fund is used to send the children of reasonably affluent people to “a school of their choice,” even though many of them could just afford the tuition on their own.

Not exactly a data-driven program.

I get excited whenever I see an article in the New York Times that speaks common sense about education. It is a newspaper with national reach. Television producers of news shows always read the Times. I get a sense of hope.

Brittany Bronson, a regular contributor to the Op-Ed page, has an article about the voucher program in Nevada, and she sees how it will work. It won’t help poor kids. It will be used by middle-parents to exit the public schools. It will reduce the diversity in public schools.

Vouchers won’t cure what ails our low-income families. They will only reinforce the assumption that our private schools are successful and public ones are not, that the education system is broken. But it’s not the schools alone that are broken; they are a loose wheel in a system that is malfunctioning on a much grander scale.

In Nevada, about one in four children live in poverty, not because their schools have failed them, but because their parents juggle multiple jobs on a stagnant minimum wage, have little job security and are denied paid time off.

The Anne E. Casey Foundation argues that improving the well-being of children in poverty requires a two-generation approach, meaning you can’t improve the situation for children without addressing the economic realities of their parents. Its 2015 report states that, “Boosting low family income, especially early in a child’s life, can have lasting positive effects on cognitive development, health, and academic achievement.”

These economic challenges present direct conflicts with the type of parental involvement and support that are necessary for quality education. Erratic and unpredictable work hours make it difficult to organize transportation to and from school and after-school child care. Long workdays limit parents’ ability to ensure that children’s academic responsibilities outside of school are being met. Low wages without benefits make it impossible to afford enriching activities outside the classroom or quality health care that plays a crucial role in academic success.

Nevada parents do need choices, but far more than these vouchers can provide.


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