School choice

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"School choice" and "educational choice" are political phrases used to refer to policies that promote educational voucher systems in place of the typical public school systems that have long existed throughout the United States. In a voucher system, taxpayer money ordinarily designated for funding public schools is instead given to parents in the form of a certificate or voucher that they can then use to subsidize tuition for their children to attend private, religious or charter schools, to home school their children or send them to other types of educational institutions. [1][2]

Arguments for and against

Supporters of "school choice" (voucher programs) contend that they help low-income children in poorly-performing schools the opportunity to attend private schools, which are presumed to be of better quality. Proponents also argue that voucher systems promote free market competition among schools of all types, which in turn gives all types of schools an incentive to improve. Conservative Republicans who back voucher programs also tend to opposed teacher tenure and collective bargaining (e.g., teachers unions).

Critics argue that voucher programs channel public funding to non-public schools, and weaken public school systems by diverting funding to private schools from public schools that already face extreme budget cuts. Since most private schools are religious, opponents argue that educational voucher programs also threaten the separation of church and state. The New York Times has reports that the main beneficiaries of voucher programs are church-affiliated schools. [3]The president of the Florida School Boards Association, Candace Lankford, has predicted that a statewide voucher program has the potential to lead to wide-scale fraud, because ensuring that so much public money is being used on private school costs would be difficult to track and verify.[4]

On June 27, 2002, the United State Supreme Court in Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et al, v. Simmons-Harris et al., ruled, in a 5-4 vote, that vouchers did not violate the Establishment Clause, thus leading the way for voucher programs throughout the United States. However, some states have more restrictive constitutions that prohibit the use of public funding to promote religion. There is also no track record of success of voucher programs. [5]

Proponents and Opponents

Supporters of "school choice" programs are typically conservative "Tea Party" Republicans, businesses and industries and supporters of free-market ideology. The National Education Association opposes voucher programs.[6]

Sourcewatch resources

External resources


  1. Sean Cavanaugh State GOP Lawmakers Push to Expand Vouchers, Education Week (online), April 26, 2011
  2. National Conference of State Legislators Education Program: Publicly Funded School Voucher Programs, organizational web site, accessed Mary 4, 2011
  3. Trip Gabriel Budget Deal Fuels Revival of School Vouchers, New York Times, April 14, 2011
  4. Larry Miller Voucher legislation being pushed in 35 states, blog, April 27, 2011
  5. Jason S. Marks What Wall? School Vouchers and Church-State Separation After Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, Journal of the Missouri Bar, Volume 58 - No. 6 - November-December 2002
  6. National Education Association The Case Against Vouchers, organizational web site, accessed May 4, 2011