Update on voucher schools and academic achievement
The report released today (4/4/09) found no improvement in academic achievement for those students receiving vouchers from public schools in need of improvement – the target audience of the voucher program. This five-year pilot program is the nation’s only federally-funded voucher program that funnels taxpayers’ dollars to private, and often religious, schools. AAUW opposes voucher programs and believes the appropriate strategy for improving our nation’s schools is to direct resources toward improving public schools, rather than uses taxpayers’ money to fund private schools. The DC program, which currently receives approximately $14 million, provides vouchers of up to $7,500 a piece to about 1,900 students.
Although the program should have expired in 2008, the FY09 Omnibus included $14 million for the program and language that states no additional funding will be provided without reauthorization of the program. This language requires a comprehensive look at the voucher program before any future funding is considered and puts DC families on notice that the future of the program is in question.
In addition to today’s report, an earlier report from June 2008 found that “after 2 years, there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in general between students who were offered an OSP [Opportunity Scholarship Program] scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship.” In addition, while “the Program had a positive impact on overall parent satisfaction and parent perceptions of school safety … [s]tudents had a different view of their schools than did their parents.” Overall, student satisfaction was unaffected by the voucher program.
Also, a November 2007 GAO report revealed numerous problems with the District of Columbia voucher program, including a lack of detailed fiscal policies and not adhering to procedures for making scholarship payments. The report also found that many of the participating schools conducted classes in unsuitable learning environments taught by teachers lacking bachelor’s degrees. In many cases, parents were not informed of these deficiencies.
This update is brought to you by Tracy Sherman | Government Relations Manager | American Association of University Women (AAUW) | 202-785-7730 | 1111 Sixteenth St. NW, Washington, DC 20036
For full report go to AAUW VOUCHER Report: Investing in Our Children: Public Funds for Public Education, Not Vouchers