Another Push For Vouchers

Despite the massive amount of data showing that voucher programs have failed to improve learning outcomes, voucher proponents are gearing up for another effort. The Indiana Capital Chronicle recently published a commentary from Andrea Neal, promoting the notion of “universal” vouchers–“choice” for everyone!

I sent the following rebuttal to the Chronicle, but Steve Hinnefeld got there first.


During my academic career, I did extensive research on school vouchers. (I authored the entry on the subject for the Encyclopedia of Public Administration.)

“Choice” sounds great. Providing citizens with a wide freedom of choice–of religion, politics, lifestyle– is a quintessentially American goal. The problems occur when institutionalized choices promote division, undermine civic cohesion, and fail to provide the promised benefits. In the case of vouchers, numerous studies have confirmed that the theorized educational outcomes have failed to materialize, and that children using vouchers to attend private schools have—at best—done no better than their peers who remained in public school, and more often, did considerably worse.

Furthermore, in far too many communities, the “educational choice” being offered is the opportunity to shield one’s children from intellectual and cultural diversity. Vouchers provide parents with tax dollars that allow them to insulate their children from one of the very few remaining “street corners” left in contemporary American society. Whatever their original intent, as vouchers work today, they are mechanisms allowing parents to remove their children from public school classrooms and classmates that may be conveying information incompatible with those parents’ beliefs and prejudices.

In virtually all states with active voucher programs, including Indiana, well over 90% of participating schools are religious. There is considerable evidence that fundamentalist religious schools are teaching creationism rather than science–but it isn’t simply the science curriculum that is being corrupted by dogma. As a 2021 article from The Guardian reported, those schools are equally likely to distort accurate history.

One history textbook exclusively refers to immigrants as “aliens”. Another blames the Black Lives Matter movement for strife between communities and police officers. A third discusses the prevalence of “black supremacist” organizations during the civil rights movement, calling Malcolm X the most prominent “black supremacist” of the era.

The textbooks reviewed by the Guardian are used in thousands of private religious schools–schools that receive tens of thousands of dollars in public funding every year. They downplay descriptions of slavery and ignore its structural consequences.  The report notes that the books “frame Native Americans as lesser and blame the Black Lives Matter movement for sowing racial discord.”

As Americans fight over wildly distorted descriptions of Critical Race Theory–a manufactured culture war “wedge issue” employed by parents fighting against more inclusive and accurate history instruction- -the article correctly points out that there has been virtually no attention paid to the curricula of private schools accepting vouchers.

The Guardian reviewed dozens textbooks produced by the Christian textbook publishers Abeka, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education, three of the most popular textbook sources used in private schools throughout the US. These textbooks describe slavery as “black immigration”, and say Nelson Mandela helped move South Africa to a system of “radical affirmative action”.

The Abeka website boasts that in 2017, its textbooks reached more than 1 million Christian school students. The Accelerated Christian Education website claims its materials are used in “tens of thousands of schools.” One of its textbooks still refers to the civil war as the “war between the states,” and has a section titled “Black immigration”–characterizing the slave trade as “sometimes unwilling immigration.”

With respect to Reconstruction, the Accelerated Christian Education textbook contained the following characterization:

Under radical reconstruction, the south suffered. Great southern leaders and much of the old aristocracy were unable to vote or hold office. The result was that state legislatures were filled with illiterate or incompetent men. Northerners who were eager to make money or gain power during the crisis rushed to the south … For all these reasons, reconstruction led to graft and corruption and reckless spending. In retaliation, many southerners formed secret organizations to protect themselves and their society from anarchy. Among these groups was the Ku Klux Klan, a clandestine group of white men who went forth at night dressed in white sheets and pointed white hoods.”

Unsurprisingly, the books were equally biased against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Science denial, bogus history and homophobia are unlikely to prepare students for life in contemporary American society.

The U.S. Constitution gives parents the right to choose a religious education for their children. It does not impose an obligation on taxpayers to fund that choice, and we continue to do so at our peril.


  1. It is one of the great failings of our time that public money is funding church schools where kids learn to hate their neighbors. There should be NO such transfer of funds. None.

  2. History tells us that religious fundamentalists will stop at nothing to cram their dogma down other people’s throats. Our Republican lawmakers pander to that in order to win elections. Nothing new here. We just have to keep fighting it with our voices and our dollars and fight to eliminate gerrymandering so our votes are worth something, too.

  3. I feel rhat a voucher should have a limit on the dollar amount. It should be limited to the dollar amount that was paid in your property taxes and no more. Spend what we would save on improving the publuc schools.

  4. The Corner Stone of every democracy is a free public education. All private schools are by their nature are exclusive rather than inclusive. I cannot remember the date, but there was a Supreme Court ruling that a state (Oregon in this case) could not ban private K-12 schools. IMHO this was one of the worst rulings by the SCOTUS.

    After the 1954 Brown V Board of Education ruling against segregation many counties in the south, Mississippi especially, closed their public schools and sold them for a nominal fee to organizations that established private (read segregated) schools.

    BTW, I also oppose Home “Schooling” as it also promotes ignorance and racism.

  5. Vouchers have been a source of ire for me ever since their inception. The entire goal, imo, is to effectively destroy public schools systems in order to indoctrinate children in dogma and bigotry, which is illegal in public schools due to that pesky church and state issue. Furthermore, they don’t offer the true “choices” their proponents claim, of parents being able to send their children to quality schools instead of the “failing” (read: woefully underfunded) public schools. The so-called quality schools have only so much space, and once their rosters are full, children will have to use their vouchers for more inferior private schools. In the end, it’s all about indoctrination…and power.

  6. It’s never about the quality of education for these voucher yahoos. It’s always about the Benjamins. Religious schools are just more smokescreen for the greedy.

  7. Great post and comments. However, not one person has mentioned the teacher’s union and who they support at the federal and state level.

    Vernon said it’s about the “Benjamins.” Yep, the Republican Party found a way to shift donations from the unions to DNC and into their own pockets. And, at the same time, causing upheaval in public schools.

    Many parents in Muncie’s core drive their kids to primarily white county schools. Race is their number one priority. And this remains true even after Ball State and state lawmakers stole Muncie’s school system from the people.

    The more upscale parents use their vouchers for the Catholic school in town.

    Another interesting note is that once Ball State University replaced the school board, the Ball Family Foundation started writing large checks to the school system. The local oligarchy assisted in the theft of a public school system, and not one lawyer filed lawsuits against the state to keep local control and ownership. They wouldn’t dare step on the oligarchy’s toes.


  8. The few Catholics I have spoken to regarding the voucher system have had the same issue for supporting the system; their taxes have paid taxes to support public education and pay for religious education…this is payback. Of course the fact that all of us have paid our taxes to support the infrastructure systems, public safety and fire department provisions for all of their religious owned buildings (NOT only their churches and schools) since taxing began. The neighborhood outreach once provided by all churches has long been a thing of the past; that now appears to include their own congregants in need. Millions of dollars in the Catholic Church system is used annually to pay cover up for their child molest system which has become a part of their religious doctrine. The Indiana voucher system is supporting primarily Catholic schools where all students are required to participate in religious studies of the Catholic religion which amounts to brainwashing at an early age. The students are not required to participate in prayers or religious services, a small concession.

    “The U.S. Constitution gives parents the right to choose a religious education for their children. It does not impose an obligation on taxpayers to fund that choice, and we continue to do so at our peril.”

    Indiana is violating the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Indiana by lying about how the money is disbursed to the schools. Santos has become a major distraction regarding his lies by the GOP who continue to escalate Trump’s system of lies which led to the “Big Lie” which we must now escalate what remaining control we have in the House to continue the January 6th Insurrection legal battle. Republicans complaining about one liar in their system would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous to our democracy. The seditious and treasonous acts continue with the possibility of the House “looking into” removing Trump’s impeachment which is now part of our history. Religion in the voucher system needs to be investigated but do we know what the voucher students are learning about our government and history in those schools today?

    As AgingLGirl so often posts; TAX THE CHURCHES! Make it a trade-off; tax religious owned properties (which are extensive and beyond church and school buildings) or end the voucher system.

  9. Don’t worry. Your kids will still be able to go to your state colleges and universities, no matter how ignorant they are of science and history. Why, you ask? Not content with dumbing down K-12, the right wing nut jobs have taken on the burden of “fixing” higher education. The Koch’s started with George Mason and moved on from there. Today in sunny FLA, Governor Dementis is making it more difficult to present new ideas throughout the state’s higher education system. He has started by requiring faculty and students to complete a survey on academic freedom (that translates to how much time is given to “conservative ideals”). He has installed right wing zealots to take over the Board of Trustees of the New School, a liberal arts college in Sarasota. He will eventually replace trustees at all universities with like minded cretins.

    As for science, he made a vaccine denier the surgeon general of the state. He’s coming for our microscopes as his not-so grand jury looks into Covid-19 vaccine development and investigates Tony Fauci.

    Did I mention that I’m glad I’m old? I’m hoping I won’t have to live under the dictatorship of ignorance for long.

  10. Too bad that US “freedom” doesn’t codify and emphasize that if you don’t believe in freedom of religion and a free press, you are “free” (and encouraged) to move to another country. Instead, many of us who do believe in such things are, every day, contemplating doing the same thing. IGIO.

  11. One of the methods this country’s oligarchs have used in order to hold on to their power is to plant false ideas of fear and loss into various sectors of society. While keeping the media and society focused on social divisions the oligarchs work behind closed doors in Congress to gain more tax breaks and subsidies and eliminate regulations.

    Organized religion is a business. The leaders of certain religious denominations whose power and control over their congregants was diminishing saw a way to use state legislatures to gain back that power. By circumventing state constitutions and revenue regulations they created a corrupt way to hold all taxpayers hostage and force us to financially support their religion by robbing our public education tax revenues. People are still leaving their churches and I hope the students of those religious schools will all some day realize they have been duped and lied to.

  12. At a time when this country is divided in so many ways, the last thing we need is some government sponsored system that divides us more, and that is what vouchers do.
    They divide us more by raising part of one generation to believe a false and distorted history of the country that leaves those students with world and religious views that destroy the very cohesion we need to make our system of government work. Voucher kids are indoctrinated into ancient religious beliefs that mock real and social science, and teach that one sex is superior to the other. Voucher children are left with feelings of class superiority. For everyone else there is seething resentment.
    Want to destroy the United States of America? Just destroy the “United” part by teaching part of one generation an entirely different view of what it means to be an American.

  13. Hinnefeld got right, also.
    The myths being fed by the book publishers cited will continue to fuel divisiveness for decades, if not generations, to come. in that process, they may also energize the disintegration of the fabric of society.
    Between the Koch brothers, St. Reagan, and GWB’s “Faith based” programs, not only the Civil war, but a not so quiet religious war, if I may, have been, are being, furthered.

  14. does the vouchers also demand a run on TP? seems its getting easier to control,er, con people
    whats right. the dumbing down has one outcome,people ,the dumb,who think they have it under control while distroying their own lives and ours in the long run. and no one is there to expliain what they are doing with any effect.closed minds,one station viewing and “mind control” in the public media/social sphere.we have commercial media thats all about making America fail,in theory, which i will asume will show congress the working class voter cant be trusted in the end. the republicans have now proven that they will elect anyone with no party fact check or resume background check, (this is a failure of the RNC and like orgs in power)they are seeing how far they can go with cheap rehetoric and media attention,and do nothing to make America better for all. i watched mcartemaway get votes on c span,as his holdouts demanded something in return.watching his chage over con men,er person get applauded as they changed votes. the word chaos is how it works in DC,because it will lead to nothing but more slants and digs on those who actully want to see all Americans gain some traction. santos is the laughing stock of electability,he will be merely a signature,as he shoulders to shoulder with elected rats that just grimace and see how far they can push the false pretense of being in governance of America..
    our domestic media/social rag along with murderdochs money,has ruined our nation and we have lost our democracy to the money faction. the republicans as awhole,have only applauded and given rise to the new regime of graft.

  15. Theresa; thank you! All I knew was that voucher students were required to participate in the religious classes but no information about what they were being taught. The Catholic families in my neighborhood growing up, including 2 doors away, did not allow their children to talk to me or other children or play with us. The three generation family 2 doors away would yell at their 2 children if seen talking to me, my brothers or other children in the neighborhood. As my friend; you answered my question as to why they were kept separate from non-Catholics. Even when the large Catholic family lost one of their eight sons in Viet Nam and the men in the family were at the neighborhood bar; they shrugged off and ignored all attempts to console them. They were and are no different than the racists and antisemites who are following their lead in divisiveness and sexism that is tearing America apart.

  16. Why do parents who aren’t Catholic want to enroll their children in Catholic schools? Why are they exiting the public schools? Anyone who went to parochial schools can attest to the discipline that is used and allowed. It’s definitely an authoritarian system. I can remember in Catholic HS voting in election for president of student body, an honest honor roll student who helped collect the votes reported that the winner announced was not the student that got the most votes. A senior girl that everyone liked had won and the principal announced a boy honor roll student, football player was president!
    The curriculum taught at that school was state accredited and science was fact, and the history of slavery was presented as the atrocity that it was/is. Religion class was separate, readings from bible and emphasis on ten commandments. There are some good people. who are in that Church required system, who are realizing that in the American Democracy we have the freedom to question and break away from the negatives that are there. True authority can be questioned.
    A hardship is placed on the parents who work hard pay their taxes and send their usually multiple kids to the catholic schools due to traditional pressure. A lot of these people don’t benefit financially from the voucher system themselves, but the church does.
    Catholic families should not have to pay for the defense of the pedophile priests that have harmed some of their children. We’re tired of the catholic church acting like they’re experts in human sexuality when they have a system that continuously produces pedophiles.

  17. Will there be a similar analysis of deteriorating education quality due to ideological wokies?

  18. Rose; Catholic parents who could not, or would not, pay the private school fees do benefit financially by using the voucher system to enroll their children in Catholic schools. Indiana “requirements” for voucher approval are basically now down to just claiming they do not want their child to go to public schools. They no longer have to have attended public schools to determine dissatisfaction. Politics, the GOP, has systematically convinced much of the public that public schools are failing; this, and the outright lie that the money goes directly to parents, excuses robbing public education budgets to provide vouchers and ignoring U.S. and State Constitutions.

    Sharia Law regulates the public behavior, private behavior and even private beliefs of their followers. It is most intrusive and restrictive against woman. Where is the line between Sharia Law and the Catholic Church…or the current GOP?

  19. JoAnn, my understanding of who qualifies for vouchers are low-income families, students with disabilities and families in districts with failing public schools. Children with disabilities aren’t necessarily given what their disability needs in the private/parochial sector.

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