Race, Religion, Money And Vouchers

The nefarious effects of educational vouchers continue to be documented. 

The Washington Post recently reported on a study confirming what a number of prior studies have suggested: that an unexpected rise in racial segregation is largely attributable to the expansion of school voucher programs.

Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, a study being released Monday shows a pronounced increase in school segregation since 1988, particularly in large school districts with significant numbers of Black students.

Overall, school segregation between Black and White students has increased by 25 percent since 1991 in the 533 large districts serving at least 2,500 Black students — a significant increase but nowhere near the decline that occurred in the aftermath of Brown, according to the study. (Of note: the paper makes clear that most of the school segregation in the United States is driven by demographic differences between districts, not within them.)

The study found that the problem was not housing segregation, although that certainly helps explain school segregation, because housing has become less segregated since 1991. It also found that rising school segregation isn’t driven by economic inequality, which has also declined over this period.

The researchers point to two specific policies: federal courts releasing school districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg, from obligations to desegregate schools beginning in significant numbers in the late 1990s; and school-choice policies that let parents pick what school their children attend.


Vouchers don’t just promote racial segregation–they also facilitate religiously-based polarization. I have previously written about Indiana’s voucher program, which sends millions of tax dollars to predominantly religious schools. A recent report from North Carolina underlines the role of school choice programs in siphoning public funds from public schools and sending them to religious schools, especially those aligned with conservative Christian churches and activists. Those schools have received hundreds of millions of dollars in state government funding in recent years.

Democrats in North Carolina have criticized the private-school voucher program for taking money — and students — away from public schools and sending them to private schools, where there’s often little public accountability for academic success, and where schools are free to engage in discrimination or hire people without credentials as teachers. Republicans defend offering families the choice of where to educate their children.

The report notes that several of these schools are “unabashedly Christian,” including one that has  

an application form that instructs potential families to provide the name and phone number of their pastor, detail which church ministries they’re involved in, and agree that their child can be expelled if the family doesn’t attend church services at least once a week.

If the data confirming that voucher programs promote racial and religious divisions weren’t troubling enough, a recent Brookings study confirms that–despite pious pronouncements about vouchers enabling poor children to escape “failing” public schools–vouchers have become another handout to the wealthy. The research looked at Arizona, one of several states where Republican lawmakers have created or expanded private-school choice programs to give nearly all students, regardless of their individual need, public funding to attend private schools.

In 2022, Arizona lawmakers opened the program to all students, including those already attending private schools. EdChoice touts the current iteration of the program as the “first to offer full universal funded eligibility with broad-use flexibility for parents.”…

The list of allowable expenses for Arizona’s ESA program is long. It includes everything from tuition and fees to backpacks, printers, and bookshelves. Overall, about 63% of state funds are being spent on tuition, textbooks, and fees at a qualifying school, with “curricula and supplementary materials” (12%) being the next largest expense.

And who, exactly, is benefitting from this taxpayer largesse?

We looked to publicly available data on Empowerment Scholarship Account recipients to get a clearer picture of who is receiving ESA funds. If, in fact, affluent families are securing the lion’s share of ESA funding, that would raise obvious questions about whether these programs are exacerbating rather than mitigating inequities in school access…

The researchers used a number of methods to determine where the funds were going, and the results were unambiguous:

In other words, regardless of the SES measure used (poverty rate, median income, or educational attainment), we see similar patterns in who is obtaining ESA funding. More advantaged communities are securing a highly disproportionate share of these scholarships.

Vouchers were supposed to improve educational outcomes for poor children. The programs have not only failed to improve learning outcomes, they have increased racial segregation, facilitated religious discrimination, and been a windfall for the wealthy (many of whom already had children in private schools), all while robbing the nation’s public schools of desperately needed resources.

They’ve been a civic and educational disaster.


  1. For all of these reasons, I expect IN will continue down this road. It is hard to see a path where this ends.

  2. It will always be race as the deciding factor on issues of importance. I just replied to a “complementary” picture on Facebook of three famous entertainers. In the picture from left to right are Louie Armstrong, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams; the caption below the picture read “Crosby, Williams and Armstrong”. This is the mindset, now with Trump’s chosen racial groups added, that is ruling this nation; brainwashing our youth is a nameless reminder of public knowledge of “Hitler’s Youth” in Germany and throughout Europe before and during WWII. We have an unofficial “Berlin Wall” with MAGAs as the blockage built on race and religion; we must tear it down before it becomes a permanent fixture if we are to survive as the United States of America. The world is watching us as the electronic media turns over the rocks and the vermin crawls out into the light. As Sheila has posted, they don’t even try to hide it. We cannot claim being “good Americans” because we don’t know it is happening; lying to ourselves makes us fools and will hand the election to the neo-Republicans.

  3. I think we all know what it will take to fix this. We really need backlash to turn out the legislators who continue to commit these abominations. We don’t need a blue wave, we need a blue tsunami.

  4. Don’t expect moral leadership from the Democratic Party on this one. They may publicly state they are trying to address vouchers and school choice, but the right-of-center Democrats fully support it in private. It’s like the performance over funding Israel’s genocide, publicly Biden needs to show he’s finally taking a stand against the genocidal Israel requiring Congressional action, but he’s 100% all in on the genocide. The spokespeople can’t even tell what scene is being played at the time.

    Vouchers have always been about segregation, so, unsurprisingly, they obtained the intended results. The MAGA crowd and the Democratic Party all agree on this one. Don’t you find it ironic that they both support the genocide together? Racism brings all Americans together while it further divides us—tribe against tribe.

    I hate to burst the proverbial bubble, but there has never been a “United States of America.” We slaughtered Native Americans (redskins) and stole their land because they weren’t productive enough. We also used slaves, immigrants, Chinese, and Jews to do the heavy lifting for us. This is ingrained capitalism. The mighty rule, and the weak are oppressed. Einstein called it “predatory capitalism” in 1949, and we’re still stuck with that mindset as the world has evolved.

    Guess where the Robber Barons are getting cheap labor today? The prison industry. Interesting articles/studies are coming out about the free labor pool coming from the private prison industry. They’ve found a way to have slaves again.

    We will be hitting a very rough patch in this country because the “divide and conquer” practices are still being used, and it will get ugly. Ignorance is prevalent, and sociopathy rules Washington.

  5. Todd. Please explain how authorizing the U.S. military to build a pier to facilitate getting aid to Gaza is supporting genocide. Biden is the Commander in Chief. He didn’t have to do that. You are so stuck in your rut that you refuse to give credit where credit is due. And this is hardly the only thing President Biden has done to try to prevent the spread of the war and bring it to a conclusion. Indeed, that seems to have been his focus all along to the extent that he could do so and also honor the promises the U.S. has made to Israel.The war in Gaza is a hot mess with plenty of blame to go around on all sides, but I think you would be trying to blame Biden no matter what action he did or didn’t take. In that regard, you are exactly like the MAGA Republicans.

  6. Now Indiana is entering a private/ public partnership with the Carnegie Foundation. Canegie will dictate graduation requirements for worker bees in publuc schools. Will the parochial, private for profit or charter schools have to fall under those same requirements.

  7. Without the extreme descriptions of Biden’s imagined/alleged crimes, there is little else to support voting one’s conscience. Again the good is the enemy of the perfect.

  8. Euphemisms are used by the GOPIGGIES to lie their way to anything they want to achieve: segregation, widening wealth gap, encouraging religion with public funds, voting slight-of-hand, etc.

  9. Sharon,

    There are hundreds of aid trucks backed up at entry points surrounding Gaza, but Israel refuses to let them get through. Yesterday, Israeli settlers in Gaza attacked one of the aid trucks, threw all the aid off the truck, and set it on fire. The entry points have military stations but not a single soldier on sight—no condemnation from Biden. The pier is a ruse. Biden could make a single call to Bibi and end the blockade at the checkpoints, but he won’t do it. You can apologize for Biden all day long, but it won’t change the fact he has been supporting Israel’s genocide 100%. He’s earned the nickname #GenocideJoe. And, btw, your apologizing for Biden puts you on the same side as the MAGA crazies! They are cheering on the mass murder of Palestinian women and children.

    As for segregation, from the AP this morning, about 70 years after Brown:

    “We can be a strong multiracial democracy, but we cannot be that if we continue to allow most children in the United States not to go to school with children who are from different backgrounds.”


  10. Folks are choosing alternatives to public schools because they don’t want their children attending racial jungles.

  11. Public schools are/were a key leg in the stool of democracy underpinning the building of community from a young age. THEY have worked for years to defund it in a thousand ways. WE have done little in the opposite direction. As in many things, we are too busy arguing among ourselves and amusing in the consumerism eating our culture alive.

  12. I didn’t go to public primary school in the 50’s I wish I could have since it was a nice big school a block away from my home. Instead, we had to walk a mile and half to Catholic school and had to pay for everything, books, uniforms, tuition etc. There were a lot of kids in my family and the bills added up. We kids didn’t have a choice and our families paid their taxes too. We certainly weren’t rich and in fact it was a hardship. Most Catholic families chose and shared those hardships. Why? I guess the old Catholic philosophy is life is hard so let’s make it harder.
    When I hear that Catholic kids are taking away from the public-school kids it angers me. These days it wouldn’t take much for an extremist to pick up an AR17 and go into those schools for revenge.
    I understand separation of Church and State and not wanting tax dollars to go for religious instruction. I think that all American children deserve a solid scientific researched based education and understanding of what America is and how to think critically.
    The Indiana state coffers are full and the State has the power to change the rules and bring public schools up to very high standards.
    I never understood why anyone would go to parochial school if they didn’t traditionally have to. What were their reasons for leaving such a good deal (public education) and going into such an authoritarian Catholic environment? That would be an adjustment. I only know what I experienced.
    I agree with the notion “no child left behind”. I know I’ll get my head chopped off for stating my perspective on this subject on this blog, but please don’t blame the kids and their families, they struggle too.

  13. I think Ian just crossed the line. Todd has his toe on it, as usual.

    If you really want to delve into how public education is being changed to produce more worker bees, look up the new graduation requirements set to be finalized this summer (when most parents and kids now in 7th grade who will be directly impacted by those changes are not paying attention).
    Students must lock themselves into an academic path to graduation when they are in 8th grade. No world history or languages are required, only U.S. history. And who knows what content will be in that course. The outside work and volunteer requirements are not so subtly shaded towards religiously influenced organizations. No mention of what the changes would mean for students applying to out of state universities and colleges. Also, no details about how many school counselors would need to be trained and hired to tract the outside activities. Also, little attention to how a student could change track.
    For further comparisons to the current requirements this article from the Indiana Capital Chronicle is helpful.

  14. I’m with Sharon in this intercine dispute, one in which I note that a central figure in this horror, Netanyahu, is unmentioned in both their statements.

    To topic: If publi:c schools are “failing,” perhaps parents had ought to agitate for change. The present system is shortchanging the taxpayer, the parents, and especially the students. I think critical thinking, for instance, is not likely to be taught in a religious school whether publically funded or not, lest students go back to public school.

    We talk of separation of church and state, but someone tell me how education of students, a public perogative, should be publicly funded via unqualified “teachers” based upon Jewish history and other fables in 21st Century America.

    Brown happened during my senior year in law school and the big majority of my class and I hailed the court’s decision. What we have since witnessed is a state by state chipping away of Brown via such ruses as “parental choice,” “failing schools,” and other racist means. Religious schools should be required to teach public school curricula, and if they want to add religious courses, fine, but not at public expense.

  15. The dream that motivated the troops of civil rights advocates/workers through the ages is still a dream. Slavery now is certainly not as oppressive, but skin color instead of armbands identifies the victims still. The Emancipation Proclamation, turning 150 years old, turns out to be a process, not an event.

    How long is the process? Many, many generations. Ignorance is that stubborn a condition.

  16. Todd. “Biden could make a single call to Bibi and end the blockade…”
    That is a ridiculous claim for you to make. You have no evidence to support it because you are not in Netanyahu’s head. It is what you say to avoid answering the question I asked you weeks ago. What, realistically, should President Biden do in this complex situation? Right now he is catching he’ll from both the extreme right and the extreme left. To me, that indicates that he is pursuing a reasonable strategy. But please, tell us what President Smekens would do. What would you tell Bibi in your imagined phone call? Threaten nuclear war?

  17. Re-segregation of schools is worrisome. Meanwhile, I believe most teachers are still white. Not that those teachers aren’t, many of them, doing their best for all students. Public schools are judged harshly, usually not based on evidence or firsthand knowledge. We went from “public” charter schools to vouchers for private schools and the courts have allowed this mockery of the Constitution. So our tax dollars support schools that discriminate against LGBTQ staff and students. And why isn’t this established religion? SMH

  18. If I were to sell a weapon to someone, and that someone used that very same weapon to commit a crime, am I not complicit?

    Joe Biden as my president supports ethnic cleansing abroad. I wonder what else he supports non-publicly.

    A man that supports ethnic cleansing is a man without conscience

  19. Talking about Biden and Gaza is not relevant to Sheila’s post today. The problems with US schools are mostly a state issue now. Biden’s disturbing 1970s anti-busing efforts are relevant, especially as they highlight a history of white opposition to racial and economic integration.
    But no mistake about it, we cannot elect an overt racist demagogue or allow that to happen by our purity. We have to actively support Democrats at all levels while still advancing nuanced discussions of complex issues. We can better speak truth to power when that power is Democratic.

  20. It’s good that we can identify the problem but what is/are the solutions?
    Should we go to school board meetings to address this?
    Write a letter to the Dept. of Education?
    How can we get involved?

  21. You don’t need to imagine what President Todd would do because we already have a precedent from President Ronald Reagan:

    “A year later, in August 1982, when Israeli forces advanced beyond southern Lebanon and began shelling the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut, Reagan responded with an angry call to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, demanding a halt to the operation.”

    Reagan then cut off military shipments and aid, which Biden should have done in October 2023. Biden also should not have vetoed UNSC ceasefire proposals.

    Too late now, Biden has blood all over his hands. I hope it was worth the $11 million he gets from the Israeli lobby.


  22. The idea of “allowing kids to move out of failing schools” always struck me as idiotic. Then, you are just giving up on the school, and the kids that remain in it.

    It’s like if a dyke surrounding a housing complex is failing, you don’t offer a few lottery tickets to the residents there to move out, you fix the damn dyke.

  23. John H.,

    You are absolutely correct. When they started all of the “No Child Left Behind” testing it was clear that the whole purpose of the testing was to close public schools. If you want government to work, you find the root cause of the failure then you fix it! What they did was abandon kids going to the failing schools. Even if they can get the classes paid for, they can’t transport the poor kids to the schools. Nothing was fixed. It wasn’t the point.

  24. Vouchers and charter schools are contributing to increased polarization (segregation) of the most important sorts in our country – race, economics, religion, educational attainment, and more. Ultimately, democracies can’t survive these deep divisions that can’t abide uniting in common cause for the benefit of a community, state, and nation.

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