Governors Push for Private School Vouchers

The public (63%) does not support private school vouchers: every time a voucher program has been put to a vote in the past 45 years, the voters have rejected it. Despite this disapproval, Governors around the country are trying to push private school voucher policies through bills and state budgets.

The unpopularity of vouchers among the people is understandable. Vouchers take taxpayer funds away from public schools and put them mostly into religious private schools. The education students receive in these schools is often unregulated and the curriculum often includes bunk sciences like creationism. This not only violates our country’s commitment to the separation of church and state, but also hurts voucher students academically.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: The “Parental Choice in Education Act,” a bill pushed by New York Governor Cuomo, would create a tuition tax credit program—which is nothing more than a backdoor voucher program that would cost the state millions of dollars. The program would cost the state millions of dollars that could otherwise go to public schools in need of money. Tuition tax credit programs have been criticized as being “welfare for the rich.” That is especially true with this program, as many of these publicly-funded private school scholarships could go to families with annual incomes up to $300,000.

The New York Times came out in opposition to this bill, along with many New York legislators and civil rights groups. AU also signed onto a coalition letter opposing this bill.

Governor Scott Walker: Wisconsin currently has three separate voucher programs that are full of problems. Reports have revealed that Wisconsin’s voucher schools fail to provide equal access for students with disabilities, often have teachers with no education background, and are sometimes housed in old factories, strip malls, or car dealerships. In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau released a five-year longitudinal study that concluded that students in Milwaukee using vouchers to attend private and religious schools perform no better on standardized tests than their counterparts in public schools. Wisconsin taxpayers have already wasted a lot of money on the program: they’ve paid about $139 million to voucher schools over the past ten years that were later kicked out of the program for failing to meet finance, accreditation, safety, and auditing requirements. Even Wisconsin’s highest education official opposes vouchers.

Nonetheless, Governor Walker’s proposed budget would expand the statewide voucher program by removing the cap that limits it to 1,000 students. Although the voucher expansion is not popular and would likely be enormously expensive, Walker apparently believes that pushing the program could help him in his potential presidential bid next year.

Governor Chris Christie: The New Jersey State Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 includes $2 million to support a private school voucher pilot program. Christie tried to slip a voucher program in the budget two years ago, but it was met with strong opposition from the legislature and even threats of a potential legal fight. Like Governor Walker, Christie may be merely using the budget as an outlet to set out his education platform for a 2016 presidential run.

Janice Rael, President of the AU Delaware Valley Chapter, wrote an op-ed laying out the many problems with Christie’s voucher proposal.

If you live in one of these states, let your Governor know how you feel about harmful private school voucher programs. To receive AU action alert updates for your state, sign up here.