Opinion: Programs such as school vouchers hurt vulnerable students

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The privatization of the school system certainly isn’t new.  The push of charter schools and other private institutions’ popularity is on the incline. It’s been about 20 years that the Devos’ family has been investing in the charter school system in Michigan. Only about 5 years ago Vice President Pence started investing into massive school choice voucher programs while the governor of Indiana. The increase of all school choice has negative effects on students within the public school system, some of which still do not have access to other options.

Idaho should not invest into the privatization of the public school system. The systematic problems of vouchers and privatization hurts the students who are already the least advocated for, and actually perpetuates the problem of inequality.

Worse for grades

A study done by the CREDO institute in 2009 took 70 percent of students enrolled in charter schools nationwide and discovered that 46 percent of students posted the same math scores as their public school counterparts, and 37% of them had worse math scores than students from the same peer groups and school performance in public institutions. More recent CREDO studies are less conclusive.

Furthermore, a study done in 2017 by Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame and R. Joseph Waddington of the University of Kentucky has the most recent research on the topic. The study shows students who transfer to a private school experience backslides in improvement for the first two years of their schooling. After that students started to see increases in their learning. If a student doesn’t stay in the school for two years they essentially only have a negative experience. If we are going to have school choice, then at the very least it should give students a better educational experience.

Lack of equal opportunity

The idea of vouchers was originally to help students who come from low income families to have more access to schools. This does not solve the overall problem of systematic marginalization that exists in the recruiting process that increases segregation. Some charter schools get their funding through results of the students. They are incentivized to not accept students who they do not think will perform. Though the idea of vouchers is to help the marginalized, the recruiting process is efficient at blocking students with disabilities or behavioral issues from getting new experiences.

This happens because these schools make a blanket decision that these students cannot perform to their set expectations to profit. Privatization is directly related to a for-profit model that looks to measure the success of the school. The force for schools to make money creates marginalization. In Indiana, where Pence governed since 2013, there has been a decrease in vouchers used for low income public school students trying to get into private schools and instead a significant increase in middle class students who have never been to a public school getting vouchers to go to expensive religious institutions. This erases the original intention of the voucher program.

Budget problems

Depending on the state each student receives a certain amount of dollars a year that follow him or her to whichever institution he or she chooses. Once a school loses a large enough amount of its students to charters, it starts to not have enough money to keep up with basic building maintenance. This has led to one of the largest groups of school closures in recent history.

What’s happening is students from low income areas are targeted by biases that prevent them from getting into schools, then these students’ public schools have to close due to a lack of funding.  In Chicago, students who are the most marginalized stay in schools that eventually close and then they are forced to leave their school and find a different location out of their district. In some cases the schools closing are ones that are handicapped accessible and support students with various needs. Moving students around gives them a larger risk of gang violence.

This is why it is crucial for Idaho to not join the privatization of the school system that is currently becoming a part of the American way. Private schools, for the most part, only help the already privileged, vouchers discriminate based on too many things to help the marginalized and the losing of other public school students hurts the students at risk. By advocating for a stronger and more invested public school system we are helping all students to have a brighter and more informed future.


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