Vouchers, Education and Democracy

I was recently asked to write the entry on school vouchers for publication in the upcoming Encyclopedia of Public Administration. Here it is.  (Warning: it’s longer than my usual posts.)

Introduction. School voucher proposals gained traction in the late 1980s as part of a broader movement to privatize services previously delivered by government through its employees. Unlike the privatization program undertaken by Margaret Thatcher in England, in which public enterprises were sold off to the private sector, relieving government of further responsibility for their operation, in the United States privatization referred to the practice of contracting out delivery of government’s programmatic responsibilities to for-profit or non-profit third-party surrogates. Enthusiasm for this method of public service delivery led to a significant expansion of such practices, generating mixed results depending upon the service involved and the adequacy of government oversight. Voucher programs allowing parents to enroll their children in participating private schools of their choice, and to pay the tuition in full or in part with a government-issued voucher, have become one of the more contentious elements of the larger privatization agenda.

Enthusiasm for a market-based approach to schooling received impetus from a 1990 study by John Chubb and Terry Moe, Politics, Markets and America’s Schools.  Although several researchers subsequently challenged the data and methodology used in that study, which painted a grim picture of America’s schools, fewer critics initially took issue with their definition of “effective schooling,” which was to be measured against academic criteria only. For Chubb and Moe and those who agreed with their prescription for school privatization, the mission of the schools was limited to imparting competency in the math, science and language skills deemed crucial to economic self-sufficiency and America’s ability to succeed in the global marketplace. Only later did criticism of that premise become a major point of controversy between proponents and opponents of school vouchers.

Philosophy and Partisanship. At its intractable extremes, the school voucher debate is a conflict between two long-standing elements of the American political tradition: the commitment to personal choice and individual freedom, on the one hand, and an equally compelling belief in the importance of a common civic infrastructure and collective interests on the other. Debate over vouchers has become so contentious in large measure because it reflects the tension between these largely incompatible political priorities.

Rather than debating whether public schools are as deficient as some have portrayed them, and if so, in what respects, or debating the merits of one reform measure over another, the policy issue has become whether America should continue to support a system of free, publicly-controlled schools or whether government’s educational role should be reduced to that of funder, enabling families to use a specified number of taxpayer dollars to buy educational services in the marketplace.

Initial support for school vouchers came from several interest groups: Catholics desiring financial support for their parochial schools; political libertarians opposed to government control of education on ideological grounds; business interests concerned about public schools’ ability to produce a skilled workforce; and the Christian Right, which had advocated for Protestant prayer and religious instruction in the public schools and had been rebuffed by the Supreme Court in a series of cases begining in 1962, when Engel v. Vitale struck down the practice of official prayer in public school classrooms. These constituencies were, and are, largely aligned with the Republican Party, while the most reliably anti-voucher interest groups— public educators, especially teachers’ unions; the African-American community; and civil libertarians—represent important Democratic constituencies. Voucher programs have thus become a partisan issue. (Kennedy 2001) The political dimension of the voucher debate has been underscored by the very active role taken by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate lobbying organization that supports voucher programs. ALEC’s education task forces are funded primarily by libertarian interests, including the Charles Koch Foundation, the DeVos Foundation, and the Friedman Foundation. (Shaffer, Ellis & Swensson 2018)

Voucher proponents argue that competition in education leads to better schools at less cost. They point to test results showing that student achievement in private schools has historically been superior to the performance of students attending public schools. Opponents respond that much of the research purporting to compare public and private school outcomes fails to control for major differences in student body composition, including but not limited to parental socio-economic status and educational motivation.

Opponents and even supportive academics also warn of potentially damaging social consequences. John Witte, an educational researcher who evaluated and supported one of the earliest voucher programs, a 1990 experiment in Milwaukee, nevertheless noted that the program led to more segregation in the schools than otherwise would have been the case. (Witte 2000) Other researchers have worried about religious balkanization, since an estimated 80% of the private schools participating in voucher programs are religious. Still others have expressed concern that voucher programs largely abandon the civic mission of the schools. (Covaleskie 2007)

Legal issues. As voucher programs grew, opponents raised both First Amendment and state constitutional concerns, arguing that the use of public funds to pay tuition at religious schools violated both the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and state-level prohibitions known as “Blaine Amendments.” The Supreme Court considered the First Amendment arguments in 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. That case challenged an Ohio voucher program that affected only the Cleveland City School District. In 1999 and 2000, 82% of the schools participating in the Cleveland program were religiously affiliated, and 96% of the students using the vouchers were enrolled in one of those religious schools. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals ruled for the parents who were challenging the program; however, the Supreme Court reversed. The Court accepted the defense’s argument that the vouchers were payments to the parents, whose choice of religious schools was made freely and voluntarily, and that as a result, the vouchers could not properly be characterized as tax support for the religious schools. Since the choice of school was made by the parents, and the program’s goal of allowing low-income children to escape a failing school system was secular, the Court held that the voucher program did not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.

State courts have largely adopted the logic of the Zelman decision, allowing voucher programs to operate despite state constitutional provisions forbidding the payment of state tax dollars to religious institutions. These provisions, commonly called “Blaine Amendments,” were named for Congressman James Blaine, who sponsored a federal constitutional amendment in 1875 that would have forbidden public funding of religious schools. Blaine’s amendment was seen as an effort to prevent government from supporting the Catholic schools that had originally been established in response to Protestant bible-reading in public school classrooms.  Blaine’s effort at a federal amendment failed, but thirty-eight states subsequently added such provisions to their state constitutions. In sixteen states where Blaine Amendments seemed likely to preclude judicial approval of voucher programs, so-called “neo-vouchers” have used tax credits to circumvent the problem; the subsidies have been deemed “tax reductions” rather than direct spending. Arizona is the most prominent state employing this tactic; its Supreme Court upheld the state’s “tax credit scholarships” in 1998. In two states, Massachusetts and Michigan, both vouchers and neo-vouchers have been held to violate those states’ constitutions. (Davis 2016)

Performance. Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has cast doubt on the educational benefits promised by voucher proponents. (Dynarski & Nichols 2017) Public school students who received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored more poorly on reading and math tests when compared to similar students who remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large, and the results could not be explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers had transferred out of above-average public schools. According to a Brookings Institute overview of available research, a Louisiana public school student who was average in math (at the 50th percentile) and began attending a private school using a voucher declined to the 34th percentile after one year. Students in third, fourth, or fifth grades had a steeper decline, to the 26th percentile. A student at the 50th percentile in reading declined to about the 46th percentile. In Indiana, a student who had entered a private school with a math score at the 50th percentile declined to the 44th percentile after one year. Earlier studies of voucher programs had shown more mixed results when measured by test scores, with scores improving for some students in some places, and failing to improve for other students in other places.

In January, 2018, The Wall Street Journal analyzed data on Milwaukee’s program, the nation’s oldest, and found that the city’s 29,000 voucher students, “on average, have performed about the same as their peers in public schools on state exams.”

A variety of explanations have been offered for the continued lack of evidence that vouchers improve student performance. Among the theories: Public schools have improved more than private ones since the early 1990s; business interests, often lacking background in education, have established schools they are ill-equipped to run; before vouchers, private school classrooms were occupied by children from more privileged backgrounds, and test scores tend to correlate highly with parental income. To date, no consensus has formed around any of these explanations.

Indiana’s results are particularly concerning, because the state has the nation’s largest, and arguably least restrictive, voucher program. Initial enrollment caps have been abandoned, as has the rule that children would not be eligible for a voucher unless they’d attended a public school for at least one year. (The initial justification for vouchers was to allow poor children to leave failing public schools.) The program is no longer limited to poor children; recent research suggests that nearly a third of Indiana’s voucher families could afford private school tuition without state subsidies. (Shaffer, Ellis & Swensson 2018)

Civic Dimension. If communities are created and sustained by the things we have in common, by mutual engagements that build social capital, it is particularly important to consider how overarching values and civic commitments are transmitted, supported and reinforced in a society as heterodox as that of the United States. The public schools have traditionally been seen as important to the forging of social solidarity, and have long been regarded as a public good. The public schools play a major role in introducing students who come from increasingly diverse backgrounds to each other and to America’s civic aspirations. To date, there are no research studies comparing public and private school performance in transmitting civic knowledge or success in encouraging civic behaviors.

Voucher proponents will generally not dispute the classification of education as a public good and except for the most ideological libertarians among them, do support a role for the state: the role of funder. Where they differ from proponents of a strong public education system is on the identity of the provider of educational services. Privatization proponents argue that the market can and should provide the education services and that government should enable individual families to purchase them. On the theoretical level, the voucher debate is one more instance of the tension between the libertarian belief in the efficacy of markets and the primacy of individual choice, and the more communitarian preference for mechanisms that encourage social cohesion.

Funding and Oversight. Education in the United States is a function specifically assigned to the states, and funding for public education has consistently been a major state-level budget item. Given state educational systems’ dependence upon the fiscal health and tax revenues of their home states, school funding and institutional quality across the country has been uneven. Voucher programs must be funded out of those same state budgets, and opponents of those programs charge that they are siphoning off funds desperately needed by the public schools. In Indiana, the state with the country’s largest voucher program, state support for vouchers in 2016-17 totaled 146.1 million dollars; between 2011 and 2017, the state spent 520 million dollars. Public school administrators assert that these are funds that would otherwise have gone to the state’s public schools, while advocates for voucher programs insist that the programs actually save the state money.

The fiscal impact of vouchers, and the veracity of the dueling claims, is difficult to assess for several reasons. Differences in the way in which states construct their programs means that impacts vary from state to state. Voucher proponents’ claim that vouchers save taxpayers money is based upon the fact that most vouchers are issued for amounts that are less than the per pupil cost of educating a child in the state’s public schools. Since the money that follows the child is less than the cost incurred by the public system to educate that child, the public school retains the difference. That claim, however, overlooks two reasons why such savings are more theoretical than real: first, a growing number of students enrolled in voucher programs were never in the public system. Second, there is not a one-to-one reduction of public school expense when a student leaves. For example, if one or two students leave a class of 25, the school system must still provide a teacher, a classroom and supplies for the 23 who remain. The school system must continue to maintain its facilities and pay sufficient personnel to conduct necessary administrative functions. It is only when large numbers of children take vouchers and depart that school districts can realize savings by closing buildings, consolidating classes and firing teachers. Thus far, there has been little to no credible research on the actual fiscal effects of the various iterations of voucher and neo-voucher programs on public school systems.

This lack of research is at least partially due to a lack of data. Oversight of voucher programs by most states has been minimal. Despite the large amounts of money involved, private schools accepting vouchers have not generally been subject to reporting requirements, either curricular or fiscal. In Louisiana, independent reporting found many religious schools teaching creationism in science class and using grossly inaccurate, religiously proselytizing texts in history. In Ohio, a 1999 investigation by the Akron Beacon Journal found school choice legislation had been developed as a quid pro quo for campaign contributions and documented improper political behavior by a local businessman who then established private schools specifically to take advantage of the opportunity created by the legislation. His schools generated 16 million dollars from vouchers in the 1999-2000 academic year; the students who attended his schools were subsequently found to perform more poorly than those in the public schools. In Florida, the Miami News Times won an award for its expose of a voucher program for children with physical and learning disabilities; the paper reported safety violations, physical abuse, frequent relocations, a lack of curriculum, and virtually no state oversight.

Conclusion. The combination of cutbacks to public schools, reports of malfeasance by voucher schools, and the emergence of data undercutting the claim that privatization would improve student performance has dampened much of the initial enthusiasm for school vouchers; however, the programs still have substantial political support. It remains to be seen whether that support can be maintained, and whether private schools accepting vouchers can improve their results sufficiently to justify continuation of these educational experiments.


 Covaleskie, J.F. 2007. “What Public? Whose Schools?” Educational Studies. Vol.42, #1.

Davis, Carl. 2016. “State Tax Subsidies for Private K-12 Education.” Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. October.

Dynarski, Mark and Austin Nichols. 2017. “More findings about school vouchers and test scores, and they are still negative.” Economic Studies at Brookings: Evidence Speaks Reports. Vol. 2, #18, July 13.

Kennedy, Sheila Suess. 2001. “Privatizing Education: The Politics of Vouchers.” Phi Delta Kappan. Vol. 82, Number 6. February.

Shaffer, Michael B., John G. Ellis and Jeff Swensson. 2018. “Hoosier Lawmaker? Vouchers, ALEC Legislative Puppets, and Indiana’s Abdication of Democracy”  AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice. Vol. 14, No. 4 Winter


  1. No; I did not read this in entirety but I do have a suggestion. Use your Conclusion as your Entry with the body to be read to explain your Conclusion which actually says what needs to be said on this subject.

    Just the opinion of a public school educated Indiana resident whose children and grandchildren suffered through the public education deficits caused by busing and whose great-grandchildren are paying the price for bleeding the public education budget dry to support vouchers to keep politicians happy while not providing better education on any level. And the worst is yet to come from Trump and DeVos’ “God’s Kingdom” education system for all.

  2. Don’t forget about the Broads and Waltons. Very influential in privatizing schools.

    This is all part of Neoliberalism started under Thatcher and Reagan backed by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics.

    Leaders of the teacher unions have done very little educating teachers about this subject. In Indiana and Washington, many of the hedge fund managers (democratic donors) support school privatization because of the billions spent on education. They are seeking a way to generate profits from the stream of cash flowing from the public sector.

    “The market can manage schools better than the politicians.”

    Profit maximization means lower salaries for teachers as the primary goal is eliminating teacher unions. As the number of teachers declines, they will be replaced with computers – Ed Tech.

    Ed Tech will slowly be implemented as a means of “individual choice.”

    It will also be used as a method to solve the intentionally created crisis of a teacher shortage. It will be the final blow to the teaching profession.

    Universities will be next since if self-paced learning works for K-12, there is no reason it won’t work for higher education. Universities fought off MOOCs, but with over $1 trillion in student loan debt, the diploma mill will be the next target. 😉

  3. Sheila,

    Very well done. Question: “The public schools play a major role in introducing students who come from increasingly diverse backgrounds to each other ….”

    Have there been studies that demonstrate public schools are more diverse? Studies that show increased segregation of schools as a consequence of the use of vouchers?

    This would seem to be relevant to the “Civic Dimension” and “Democracy”.

    However, there is only so much you can put in an “Introduction”, and this is by far the best I’ve read.

  4. From the Indianapolis Star this morning; “Parents in Carmel question class changes” “The Carmel Class Schools board Monday night listened to half an hour of questions and concerns from parents about the district’s decision to break up elementary’high-ability’ classes.”

    “The change would put high-achievers and average students in the same classroom rather than separating the top-performing children starting next school year.”

    “Under the new ‘cluster grouping’ model, administrators said high ability students will still be grouped with their peers, and would likely not be placed in a class with students identified as lower ability. The goal is for each class per grade to have some ‘average learners’ in it.” (How will these groupings work within the same classroom?)

    “Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Martha McFarland listed some of the benefits of cluster grouping…she said the structure would better serve students’ social and emotional needs, and that advancement students would naturally serve as ‘academic models’ for their classmates.”

    Sorry the above quotes are so long but being educated in what they are now calling “cluster grouping” (NOT a new teaching system), I remember the frustration of being expected to work on the level of higher ability classmates and they were frustrated being held back while slower (average students) sought/struggled to catch up. This divided us “socially and emotionally”; their goal to have some “average learners” in each class is simply lumping students of the same age in one location. Are they saving number and space of classrooms? Many parents moved to that school area for the benefits of the “challenge program” education format. The Board is attempting to enact this change with no superintendent of education in place…a questionable move.

    This appears to me like the voucher system paying with public education tax dollars to place students in a “cluster grouping” based on family income and parental decisions to move their children into “higher ability classes” with no consideration of their child’s abilities. So far; per few reports regarding success of Charter and/or voucher student’s in private schools, this system does not seem to be working. Carmel Clay schools appear, for some reason, to want to end an advanced system that is working for their students. We all are aware here that “Carmel” means money and money means more benefits, especially in education. Indiana is leading the nation in voucher students; as always with Republicans they are more interested in quantity rather than quality.

  5. If we don’t see education as a civic good and a public responsibility, then I’d like to have a refund of the tax dollars I spent on education. I never had children, so logic tells me that I shouldn’t have paid for other people’s private gains.

  6. Why don’t they just call it what it is: government funding of education to religious institutions – the deal “W” made with the American Council of Catholic Bishops. It was a way for religious institutions to take in tax money from the government we paid for PUBLIC projects. But the funding came out of STATE budgets so it – like trumps plan to make the military use some of the overthetop funding they were given this year – to build his ‘wall’. Same thing – just pushed off on the states and of course somewhere along that line – religious and other private institutions get to eat public dollars and bolster their agendas(.) The kids and students be damned – it is the bucks. You do realize that almost all collegiate sports involved Universities highest paid positions are the Athletic Departments, right? – check it out. And even those programs have ways of garnering cash through their student base! Vouchers are only one stick in the eye of the Public taxpayer, let me count the ways…

  7. “At its intractable extremes, the school voucher debate is a conflict between two long-standing elements of the American political tradition: the commitment to personal choice and individual freedom, on the one hand, and an equally compelling belief in the importance of a common civic infrastructure and collective interests on the other.”

    The basic element left out of this passage is the profit motive. As we’ve all discussed and opined, ad nauseam, once profit motive is in play, ethics and noble causes go the way of the dodo bird. The Thatcher/Reagan grab for taxpayer money for their rich pals continues to plague the world of civic responsibility with its naked exploitation of taxpayer money and its distribution to the corporatists.

    Statistics can be twisted anyway the motivated profit grabber wants them to go. All the things mentioned by the contributors today dispel any value of vouchers and prayer and all the rest of the gobbledy-gook coming from ALEC or any other right-wing rubbish pile.

  8. It is always good to hear from Todd whose school system is the nadir of Indiana, bankrupt, corrupt, a waste land of bureaucracy, socialized model of union delivered crap. Several points to be made. https://broadcast.iu.edu/archive/lectures/pauley_12/index.html Wherein the single best thing Indiana could do to improve K-12 would be to close down the issuing of undergrad degrees in “education”. Any scholars on this thread need only consult the works of these people on the panel. Next, Moe and Chubb, you could have noted, wrote under the aegis of Brookings-an omission serious in your paen. Prior to that, Add. Rickover, Feynmann, and others connected with National Defense raised critical concerns about the decline of American schooling. One could add Ravitch to that list as a later commentator as to how progressives stuck it in the mud. No reasonable person on this topic could avoid Capitalism and Freedom, either. The omission is fatal to the article. When an author like Sheila telegraphs her conclusions you can forget the body of her propaganda. Like a lot of garbage in “education” you can find a study to prove anything and often enough the conclusions are bought and paid for in advance. Her lack of knowledge about student academic achievement declining misses the reality that in Indiana nearly all students de cline on standardized testing… The more that minds are exposed to crap, the less well they function. As for the Blacks? They are streaming to schools who will really teach their kids….most Blacks with Phd’s for instance, come out of Catholic schools. The analysis of the law is also deficient, should have begun with the Everson Decision when the Masons lied their asses off to America but prior to the time when the SC had 8 Masons on it and one non Mason. And, a fair minded person would point out that today, Congressman Blaine would be run out of Congress for being a bigot.

  9. Only serious people should go to the link provided above. Best line, in my view, was along the lines that 90% of “studies” in “education” should be pulped….and they would make bad pulp. Add Sheila’s tome to that particular observation….Bad Pulp.

  10. Vernon; in my humble opinion, comparing awarding school vouchers to “personal choice and individual freedom” means I should have the Jeep Cherokee Chief vehicle I have always wanted but am forced to drive my father’s 22 year old Pontiac Sunfire because that is all I can afford. I would also choose a newer home in better condition but can’t afford that either. And my taxes are paying for public education, Charter schools and voucher students but my youngest child is 50 years old…and his wife has home-schooled their two youngest sons for years to escape bullying which was allowed to continue in a Charter school then a Catholic school (no vouchers). What is wrong with this picture?

  11. From the above >> The Court accepted the defense’s argument that the vouchers were payments to the parents, whose choice of religious schools was made freely and voluntarily, and that as a result, the vouchers could not properly be characterized as tax support for the religious schools. Since the choice of school was made by the parents, and the program’s goal of allowing low-income children to escape a failing school system was secular, the Court held that the voucher program did not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.<<<

    The goal was to fund theocracy in the schools one way or another. The decision to use vouchers was going to made in favor of vouchers no matter how convoluted the logic was. The "logic" being state tax dollars collected belonged to the parents, not to the state. I cannot think off hand any other state or federal tax dollars collected that "belong" to the tax payers and they make the choice of how to spend it.

  12. JoAnn,

    I worked for a school district in Colorado wherein the population had the attitude you presented here. The point you and they both missed is that we ALL have a dog in the hunt for contributing to the betterment of our society. Jeffersonian philosophy pointed out that everyone contributing a little benefitted the greater good for everyone. Being self-absorbed serves only one. Bullying is something that begins in the home whether or not there is private or public school involved. Yeah. We’d all like to have more STUFF, but we manage no matter what.

    I have had no children, yet I see the value of educating children every day. As a former educator, I can say first hand that I got to be the “parent” of 150 beautiful children every semester. THEY were the most important people in my life while I taught school, and, irrespective of the lousy salary, it was a duty I felt for my society and my country. All this voucher bullshit makes me very tired. Greedy, self-serving people just keep trying to find new ways to feather their own nests at the expense of others, a typical primitive human trait.’


    Your rants are confusing, slanted and overly critical of things you seldom understand. Until you actually work in a public school system and see what occurs, you might want to re-direct your rage at something else.

    When you have generations of under-paid teachers and under-funded infrastructure, you get, literally, what you pay for. In view of this, it is miraculous that we have as many well-educated people as we do. You can blame the teachers for that.

    All those people who built the weapons of war that gave us victory in WW II, the GIs who participated in the GI Bill and those who put men on the moon – and all the rest of our accomplishments in medicine, transportation and commerce were educated in PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

    Can’t you see that the voucher system being floated is just another grab for free profits by so-called Libertarians and greedy, self-serving people who could care less about the greater good. That is what causes great societies to crumble.

  13. The golden rule of Capitalism is to make more money regardless of the impact on others (externalities).

    Why would that ever be beneficial except to the individuals making more money?

    The answer is competition. If the market is a commodity one and some companies want to duke it out for who can be the low price supplier, consumers can save money.

    Is education a commodity market? Positively not. Do parents shop for the low cost alternative? I would guess virtually never. What’s the difference between the body of knowledge taught or the skill engaged in teaching it? I see nothing in what’s been written about it to see a quantifiable difference.

    My conclusion then that the only real choice it offers parents is a difference in who their kids physically attend school with and therefore charters offer segregation (perhaps racial but there are infinite flavors of tribalization).

    Is tribalization beneficial to learning?

    I’m not an educator so can only address my personal experience which is undoubtedly obsolete but I can argue that accepting the natural diversity of the human race is necessary education and useful and valued by employers generally as they serve ever expanding global markets that one size never fits all for.

    Of course teaching that is a joint education and family responsibility.

    Perhaps some families have to outsource their responsibility for teaching that.

  14. What Manuel said at 8:27am
    Get vouchers and religion the hell out of public schools. Don’t spin kids brains in a blender.
    Want to worship? Try math, the sciences and the arts and open up a world of learning. For mythology take your kid to the churches, temples or mosques of your choice. Support your public library. Grow public education from K to 12. Why not K to 16 and more for those who can cut it? Invest in public education; there are religion institutions on every corner. They must be doing well gathering free fruit from the money tree.

  15. Pete,

    The students who are best adjusted are schooled in an environment that reflects the society as a whole. My experience teaching in schools of high diversity showed more eager learners and less racial/ethnic tension than is schools with few of the “other” kinds of students.

  16. whats the problem, bill gates likes snubbing public schools, along with people who have now begun to send their precious to the private schools to god forbid,stay away from the rif raf of public institutions. protect and rise above the dirt of public schools. seriously,growing up in newark,n.j, in the 60s,inner city.. white kid with about 50/50 white,minority. I went to bakersfield,ca.1971 to a 90% white high school,culture shock.. seems those kids had attitudes and issues with, race. i wonder today where and how they act in a society that is mixed,in calif.today?
    i joined the navy one week after turning 17,vietnam era,just to get out of a town that couldnt and wouldnt change.(dewight yokum,streets of bakersfield) some how i feel those who talk about home school and private schools only send thier kids to a world unprepared to mingle,work,and make friends,without regards to a socio,race,or public life.. maybe thats where alot of politicians went. p.s. many were sent to military style school because of control isses..

  17. My comment was going to be straightforward praise to Sheila for having researched and written a great example of an even-handed, wide-angle commentary on an extremely contentious and critically important issue that I know she cares passionately about in a very partisan way. It must have killed her to reduce some of those points to one carefully worded sentence! But then I read the other comments and remembered that even an achievement as careful and expert as this one will allow people who want to take off with fizzes and bangs to do so. I could feel frustrated, angry or sad, but I don’t. I read Jennifer Palmieri’s “Dear Madam President” yesterday (highly recommend it, FYI) and I agree with her that there’s just no point bothering with those responses on Sheila’s behalf, as it would have been. What’s important is to go on with the work that she can do the way she can do it and let other people’s chips fall where they may. Sheila, my chips today are rose petals and I’m sprinkling them along your path forward and saying “bravo!” Everything that needs to be included is in here, and genuinely interested people could start here and know what to go looking for to learn more about every aspect of the issue.

  18. Vernon; I’m sorry, it must be my wording. I thought I was making a point of how ridiculous the voucher system is, didn’t realize I missed it. The voucher system here dropped a major requirement to apply for vouchers; students no longer are required to have attended a public school and didn’t receive quality education. Now; it just “I want a voucher” for my child(ren).

    And I do NOT mind at all that my taxes pay for public education…or providing infrastructure and public safety for religious schools. I do, however, mind paying for private religious education for their church and school facilities which are tax exempt.

  19. VT, if I was hiring knowledge workers in a global business I would certainly prioritize public over private schooled applicants.

  20. Great work Sheila.

    I’ve come to regard private school vouchers as money laundering. States launder money for religious education through the parents since state and federal constitutions prohibit direct appropriations for religious education. A former Supreme Court Justice – can’t remember who now – said that if it’s illegal to do something directly, then it’s illegal to do it indirectly. Yet, that’s exactly what vouchers are – an indirect appropriation for religious instruction.

    The whole ‘school choice’ infatuation has led to re-segregation of students not just by race and religion but also by test scores, wealth, and social status as the Carmel example shows. High ability students need to be in the same classrooms with special ed. and average students because they all learn some things from each other and not just academics. A pluralistic society where we have a sense of community and common purpose and learn to care about each other depends on it.

  21. Pete,

    Excellent decision.


    This topic is one of my more passionate endeavors. I hope I didn’t offend our upset you.

  22. I agree with Connie Z. Right on Sheila.

    I also recall a recent Bishop in Fort Wayne-South Bend telling a Catholic school board member to not support vouchers because they would lead to the State telling the church what they could and could not do in their church schools. He was right then and I was right in the 1950’s when I made the same argument. Public money must have public strings. Always has and always will. But it may take some time for a new legislature to establish those strings.

    In the meantime we can relay on more through pieces by Sheila.

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