Betsy DeVos says vouchers offer opportunity. But would Georgia students see any benefits?

President Donald Trump thanks fourth-graders Janayah Chatelier and Landon Fritz for the homemade greeting cards they presented during his visit to St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., Friday, March 3, 2017. With the president, from left to right, are: Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Trump daughter Ivanka Trump. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

A month into the job, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to push the school choice agenda to which she has long devoted her time and fortune.

Last week, she attempted to portray Historically Black Colleges and Universities as examples of school choice rather than of segregation and racism.

In her latest laudation of choice, DeVos extols the virtues of Catholic education, issuing this statement Friday after visiting St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., with President Donald Trump, his daughter and son-in-law.

I am proud to join President Trump in his efforts to empower all of America’s school children – including students from low-income families who are often trapped in underperforming schools – with educational opportunity. We have an obligation to put parents in charge and provide every child with the chance to reach their full potential.

Regardless of the type of school, we must support great schools, great teachers and offer every child an equal opportunity to a great education.

I attended 12 years of Catholic school. Many parochial schools do a fine job, and parents have every right to send their kids to one if they choose. But taxpayers should not fund their choice.

Voucher proponents argue local dollars should follow the child because “it’s the parent’s money.” It’s not. It’s the community’s money.

On average, it takes $9,202  a year to educate a child in Georgia, according to the latest Census data. Some districts spend  $12,000. That means households with two children would have to pay $24,000 in school property taxes to cover their children’s education. Few homeowners in Georgia pay that amount in school taxes. The expense is borne by the community as a whole, no just parents. The community pools its money to support public education.

There is little evidence that vouchers could replace public education. (There’s also little evidence vouchers outperform public schools.)

A new analysis from the Center for American Progress finds vouchers unlikely to work in 85 percent of the more than 13,000 school districts in the United States.

The study cautions:

There is also no reason to believe the new schools that crop up in response to the voucher initiative would be higher performing than the schools that are in operation today. Once researchers account for demographics, students in public schools actually outperform students in private schools, according to a large-scale 2014 study of National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, data. And like most public schools in rural areas, these private schools would face significant challenges recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, providing differentiated and challenging content, providing support for students with special needs, and more. And if these new schools are competing with the existing public schools, they will dilute the resources available for each. The likely result would be a race to the bottom, with two sets of schools struggling to provide a high-quality education to children who badly need it.

Here is how CAP analyzed the applicability of vouchers in American school districts:

 Using data and an interactive map published by EdBuild, a national nonprofit focused on improving the way states fund public schools, CAP identified three types of districts, based on the number of schools located within each: sparse; average; and dense. Of the more than 13,000 districts in the analysis, 9,000 school districts are categorized as “sparse,” where there are four or fewer schools and where voucher proposals are highly unlikely to work and could decimate the public school system. Another 2,200 are average school districts that have five to eight schools, where vouchers may not work and risk harming existing schools’ ability to serve millions of students. The number of sparse and average school districts combined means that vouchers may not be a viable policy solution for 85 percent of school districts in the United States.

CAP’s analysis lays out the potential impact that the Trump-DeVos voucher plan would have on these three types of districts. In all cases, a voucher program—which, as CAP’s analysis shows, is already unworkable in the vast majority of districts—would draw valuable and scarce resources away from existing schools, leaving public schools without the necessary resources to support teachers, classrooms, and building maintenance. CAP’s column also shows how public-school choice—as opposed to private-school voucher programs—has proven feasible and effective in many urban districts across the United States, as Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes has shown.

Nearly half of Georgia’s school districts qualify as “sparse,” which means they are unlikely to benefit from vouchers. There just aren’t enough kids to create a market for school choice. That’s why most of Georgia’s startup charter schools choose to open in metro Atlanta where they can count on two critical elements — enough students and higher per-pupil spending.

And that’s who universal vouchers would help —  students in areas where there are already strong private school options and where parents can pay the percentage of tuition that would not be met by the voucher.

 

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
Lurah Houghtaling
Lurah Houghtaling

Our tax dollars going to private schools to once again support the rich.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

A repeat lifted from my blog:


"The citizens of this nation need to galvanize, once again, around a national movement of social justice for poor people in this nation, especially for poor black people who never have fully recovered from the stigma and destructiveness of America’s Jim Crow years. Social action of a meaningful, impacting nature ended in America 35 years ago, with the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan.  The foundation was laid, and the footwork was accomplished, for this national change of societal focus in the mid-1970s (when ALEC was formed).  This new American societal focus became powerful (and made manifest) with the election of Ronald Reagan, who kicked off his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi.The belief that people can 'get there' totally on their own is naive (in the 21st century)."

kaelyn
kaelyn

I consider myself to be an optimist, but I don't see vouchers changing much. Give us all vouchers tomorrow and you'll still have the poorest and the most disenfranchised stuck right where they are. No one in their right mind is going to send their children to schools in these neighborhoods, and new schools won't be built there. Transferring out to higher performing schools won't work because we all know that the wealthy and well educated don't want their babies in school with poor kids not on grade level.

Until people start demanding better education for everyone (not just their own children), nothing is going to change.

newsphile
newsphile

@kaelyn This idea will benefit a very small percentage of people:  those who enroll their children in a private school and the for-profit management companies that spring up to open schools in more affluent areas that are heavily populated.  Taking more money from public schools is not a help to the vast majority of GA's students. 

Doom a classical liberal
Doom a classical liberal

Democrats and school vouchers. You know the Dems. They're all about choice. But only when it comes to abortion. Choice for poor minority kids to attend the school of their choice well that's a whole other matter. And the Dems just can't tolerate that kinda freedom and choice. Just can't.  

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@Doom a classical liberal If you can not count, add, and subtract, get a calculator.  The voucher does not pay the full tuition.  Therefore, the poor stay in the public school - now poorly funded, worst staff, no maintenance, outdated texts, poor recs for college, and surrounded by non-stimulating fellow students and environment.  DeVos gets what she wants - class and racial segregation producing cheap slaves.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

In addition to the numbers you provide above about how much schools spend to educate children, consider this:  ALL your local property tax does not go to JUST educate children.  A significant portion, yes, but your local property taxes also fund county services, such as road repair, the dump, upkeep on the courthouse,etc.


Here in the mountains on a 3 BR home on 2+ acres, I pay about $300/year in property tax now for schools, with a homeowner's exemption.  I'd be a fool to think my 3 children would have been educated for $900 per year with a voucher.  And should I get a voucher for more than I put in?  If you agree with that, I'd have to wonder if perhaps I should not have had children, since I could not "afford" to educate them!  That is the comment I see most often on blogs in the AJC--"If you cannot afford to raise your child, you should not have them!"  Or does that just mean poor folks?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

The impacts of many educational reforms remain unclear but voucher performance is not among them when the measure is academic performance.

Several new studies of large state voucher programs offer little evidence that students who have used vouchers to attend private schools fare better than public school counterparts. A few earlier studies found insignificant or modest positive effects

2015 study of vouchers in Indiana, a program expanded dramatically under Mike Pence: Finding: In mathematics, voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement. No improvement in reading.

2015 study of vouchers in Louisiana: Finding: “Most striking, we find strong and consistent evidence that students using an LSP scholarship performed significantly worse in math after using their scholarship to attend private schools.”

Researchers in the Louisiana study offered several possible reasons for the lack of academic achievement among students using vouchers. You can find them by using the link below to read the entire study. But one of them was the quality of the private schools willing to take vouchers.

educationresearchalliancenola.org/files/publications/ERA-Policy-Brief-Public-Private-School-Choice-160218.pdf

In June, the pro-choice Fordham Foundation released its study of EdChoice program in Ohio. A surprising finding: Those students who use their vouchers to attend private schools, having previously attended relatively high-performing public schools among the EdChoice-eligible schools. Those eligible students (coming from these relatively high-performing public schools) who attend private schools appear to fare considerably worse than we predict that they would have performed had they remained in the public schools.

https://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/FORDHAM Ed Choice Evaluation Report_online edition.pdf

.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

By the way, the Fordham study of the Ohio voucher program was funded by the pro voucher Walton Family Foundation,which has spent millions promoting vouchers. You cannot make the argument the study was skewed against choice. 

python's monty
python's monty

@MaureenDowney And, if you look into the charter schools in Detroit and how they've robbed the system of monies and decimated the system.  And when the charter schools fail to make a profit, they close and leave the students in limbo.

DecaturRags
DecaturRags

Ms. Devos needs to understand the details before she can make policy. I don't think she can handle the details. You have to roll up your sleeves. What she and President Trump do not understand is that education is shaped in those hours where kids are not in school, as much as in it. Teachers are dealing with economics and home life. School choice does not cut to that. A child who does not eat well is not going to be engaged in school. It is physically difficult.

Astropig
Astropig

The only people afraid of choice are the ones that wouldn't be chosen.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@Astropig Is that your goal, blocking education for those people you are afraid of?

Astropig
Astropig

All of this is a lot of hot air.Betsy DeVos is serious about parental choice.She has walked the walk.I believe that President Trump is serious about choice also.He made a comment the other day at a Catholic school in Orlando that reflected his desire for all public school students to have the education offered there.(Hint,hint)


There will be some form of expanded parental choice before they leave office.Not sure at this point what form it's going to take, or the timeline,but it is going to happen.All of the Soros-front group white papers in the world are not going to change basic human nature-the desire for a better education and life for our kids.These parents can see with their own eyes that the outdated public education model only works for some families, and they want it to start working for them.Soon.


I have seen some anecdotal evidence that parents of kids in these zip code schools are tired of the excuse making of the eduacracy and are ready to turn to a system that puts some power in their hands instead of an unaccountable,unapproachable board of people that have made their living off the system that these parents despise.


I could give a toss what these think tanks think.I am jazzed,pumped and genuinely excited about where education reform is headed.It won't be fast enough,(maybe),but it's coming.'Bout time.



DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Astropig  "I could give a toss what these think tanks think."


What's your expertise other than YOUR opinion? You ever teach? Handle an educational budget? 

Astropig
Astropig

@DrProudBlackMan @Astropig


Mine was an incomplete comment.Forgive me.


"I could give a toss what these think tanks and race baiters like Dr. Proud think."


That was what I meant to say.


My apologies.

python's monty
python's monty

@Astropig So you don't want to believe the Soros-front group white papers or the think tanks but you do believe some anecdotal evidence.  You probably found that in a tweet.


If you want change then invest in the current system.  Bring in resources.  Bring in experts to help identify failings and offer paths for change.


The current school systems need to be willing to change as well. 

Astropig
Astropig

@python's monty @Astropig


Sorry you're sad.Personally, I'm real happy.Things are looking better than they ever have for parental empowerment and school choice.Join me and be happy for a change.

newsphile
newsphile

@Astropig Hold your breathe until parents are given more voice in the for-profit managed schools that are coming your way. 

time for reform
time for reform

There are plenty of examples of failing schools in major urban areas such as Atlanta, and it's pretty much guaranteed they aren't going to change under the current system.

Tuition vouchers potentially would offer parents the opportunity to put education dollars to better use.

Who opposes that opportunity? Unsurprisingly, it's those who personally benefit from keeping things exactly as they are: underperforming teachers and administrators, the teachers' unions they pay money to, and the Democrat Party which ends up with much of that money at election time.

Astropig
Astropig

@time for reform


Two organizations advocate public school racial segregation in 2017.


1) The KKK


2) The NEA


We must do better.

proudparent01
proudparent01

The only private schools that do well are those that exclude anyone but their elite members. Public schools are our best options. Don't be fooled by the private and charter school hype. There is no evidence that they do better in fact if you take away there ability to choose students they would do worse. 


Public schools are a national treasure. 

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Exactly the wrong solution for America.  Teaches elitism (application for every school) and destroys required public education leaving the poor uneducated and unable to advance economically.  Fits nicely with the Republican and Breitbart fascist political philosophy.  Should be opposed at every opportunity and taken apart once the Independents, Democrats, and Democratic-Socialists retake the federal government.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

If anyone wants to know what is wrong with public education today, please see the Academy Award winning Best Picture of the Year, "Moonlight."

Our society has to become caring again, instead of greed-oriented, to improve the dysfunctional parts of our society before public education can succeed to the degree which is possible.

I do not believe Betsy DeVos has a clue.