Network for Public Education Executive Director Carol Burris is the lead author of a new report that raises concerns over taxpayers funding charters, vouchers and private schools—and how that impacts public education.
Formerly, vouchers in the state of Louisiana only existed in New Orleans and for students with special needs in eligible districts. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest bill to expand the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program is set to change that. The bill, signed by Jindal on April 18, will allow low-and middle-income students attending Louisiana public schools graded “C,” “D,” or “F,” to receive state-funded vouchers to attend private schools.
In just the first six months of 2011, 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation supporting school voucher or scholarship tax credit programs. This has been a big year for school advocates. While some states expanded already existing school choice programs, six new programs were created in Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin—beating the previous record of five new programs set in 2006.
If you were to call the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a monotone recording would answer, "The number you have dialed is unallocated."
The organization has become a ghost town since the Obama administration began phasing out the controversial voucher program, which provides federal funding for low-income D.C. students to attend private schools. The program has seen signs of a revival in the House of Representatives, however.
On Nov. 3, the Supreme Court heard arguments for a school choice case challenging the precedent set for the Establishment Clause—the separation of church and state. Winn v. Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization disputes whether a tax credit program that directs public funds to private religious schools is constitutional. Since 1997, Arizona taxpayers have had the option to divert $500 of their owed taxes to school tuition organizations (STO) for student scholarships. The taxpayers can decide if their money is given to a religious or nonreligious STO.
Tuition voucher program support has been withering under the Obama administration as it phases out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program, a federally funded voucher program signed into law in 2004, has provided over 3,700 students in Washington, D.C., with scholarships to attend private schools. The administration's primary reasoning, it appears, has been strong union opposition to school vouchers.