Stephen Dyer is a former state legislator in Ohio and an expert on school finance. In the latest post on his blog, 10th Period, he shows why the arguments for vouchers are a fraud. Vouchers are sold as a salvation for Black and Hispanic students, yet they mostly subsidize white children escaping desegregated schools. And while they are sold with the promise of improving student performance, the voucher schools are in fact inferior to public schools. They are not the schools that rich parents pay for; most voucher schools are low-quality religious schools with unqualified teachers.

Dyer begins:

Now that a group of 100 school districts have formally sued the state over the EdChoice Voucher program, it’s time for voucher proponents to trot out their favorite canard — vouchers give students of color opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. And to oppose vouchers is to oppose opportunities for students of color.

Total crock.

The reason this canard is so pernicious is simple: It’s not true, and in fact, the opposite is true. Vouchers are disproportionately distributed to white students, leading to greater overall segregation in public school districts and communities of color with substantially fewer state resources to educate students in those communities.

This is the stat that voucher proponents love to quote, and it’s what Greg Lawson (a guy I actually like personally, despite our profound policy differences on this and nearly every issue) from the Buckeye Institute articulated in the Dispatch story yesterday:

“Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute said the data on who takes vouchers varies from school to school, but overall more minority students use EdChoice. 

Ohio is about 82% white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. But 50% of the students who take an EdChoice scholarship identify as white or non-Hispanic, according to the Ohio Department of Education. 

‘The choice is there for everybody regardless of what demographic box they check,’ Lawson said.”

What Greg and others “forget” is that EdChoice doesn’t apply to every school district in the state. In fact, according to data from last school year, only 164 of Ohio’s 613 school districts lost any state funding to the EdChoice Voucher transfer last year — a $164 million deduction from districts’ state aid. However, 95% of that funding came from just 38 school districts. Want to take a gander at the demographic makeup of those 38 districts? You guessed it. Overwhelmingly non-white. How overwhelmingly?

Try 68% non-white.

Sounds a whole lot different from the 82% white stat Greg mentioned, doesn’t it? In fact, of those 38 districts, only Wilmington was close to the 82% white stat.

Why would he try to repeat the 82% stat when only 1 district in the entire state that loses substantial state aid to EdChoice fits that description?

Because if only 50% of the voucher recipients are non-white, yet the communities from which the students come are almost 70% non-white, it kinda kills the whole “giving people of color an opportunity” argument.

Yeah….

Seems that for more than 20 years now, legislators have known that vouchers are disproportionately going to white students, yet they have done nothing to address this. 

Someone might want to ask them about that.

Oh yeah. One more thing. It was interesting to read that not even the outrageously histrionic Aaron Baer mentioned in the Dispatch the whole original argument for the voucher program to begin with: it provides better options for kids in “failing” public schools. 

That’s because we now know, thanks to more than a decade of comparative testing, that vouchers actually harm student achievement.

Even the Fordham Institute — an avowed voucher proponent — agreed in 2016 when it found that vouchers actually reduced student achievement. This was affirmed in 2020 when the Cincinnati Enquirer looked at test scores of voucher recipients and compared those scores with scores of students in the communities in which the private school resided. The paper found that 88% of the time, the public school students outperformed the private school students.

To voucher proponents now what matters now is the choice, not the outcomes from that choice apparently.

So let me bottom line this program: it leads to more racial segregation, deprives communities of color much needed state educational aid and provides less successful student outcomes. 

But hey, let’s throw hundreds of millions more of our tax dollars at this thing