Those who have a negative outlook on the school voucher system offer these reasons: Vouchers are taxation without representation—Vouchers funnel public dollars into private schools, yet taxpayers have little or no say in how they are run. Vouchers violate the separation of church and state—it is very important that we abide by the constitutional safeguards that have steered our country through 200 years.
Vouchers take money needed by public schools—when tax dollars go into private schools, it reduces the public’s willingness to increase taxes for public schools. Private schools do not have to respect all the constitutional rights of students—they do not have to follow the same mandates. While they are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color or national origin, however they do not have to follow constitutional guarantees in areas such as due process and free speech—rather important guarantees. (Special Voucher 2000)
Alan Borsuk and Sarah Carr, writing for the Journal Sentinel, note that “Now 15 years old, Milwaukee’s school choice program is very much like a teenager—heartwarmingly good at times, disturbingly bad at others, and the subject of myths, misunderstandings and ignorance, even by the adults entrusted with its welfare. ” (JS Online 2006). The program remains somewhat of a mystery even to those state officials who supposedly know what is going on. There are 115 schools in the voucher program; close to 14,000 students at a cost of $83 million to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.
(JS Online 2006). The voucher system began as an experiment on the part of Wisconsin legislators, and was considered at the time “one of the nation’s most provocative education ideas: giving low-income parents the chance to send their children to private schools using vouchers to pay school costs. ” (JS Online 2006). Eight years after the inception of the voucher program, religious schools were also made available to low income parents. This is what the two journalists found during their investigation into the voucher schools:
The voucher schools look and feel much like the schools in the MPS school district. Both voucher schools and MPS are struggling to educate low-income, minority students. About 10% of the choice schools demonstrate “alarming deficiencies” There is agreement on the issue of increased oversight for voucher schools. There are at least as many excellent schools as alarming ones, however, and the voucher program have brought “fresh energy to the mission of educating low-income youth in the city. ”
The amount of taxpayer money going to pay for religious education in Milwaukee has “no parallel in the last century of American life. About 70% of the students in the program attend religious schools. ” The voucher system has regenerated parochial schools in the city of Milwaukee. Parental choice does not in itself guarantee a quality education for children—some parents make bad choices when they pick schools, and keep their children in them long after it is apparent the school is floundering.
Despite the concerns, there is no evidence that the voucher schools have “creamed” the best students from MPS; “the kids in the voucher program appear to have the same backgrounds and bring the same problems as those in public schools. ” (Borsuk 2006). Mr. Borsuk also found that with the exception of the element of religion in the voucher schools—an issue many feel is a violation of the separation of church and state– “it’s the same story that’s being played out in urban classrooms across America—a story of poverty, limited resources, poor leadership and broken families.
” (2006). Based on firsthand experience observations garnered from visiting each and every voucher school that would allow it, Borsuk concluded that at least ten of the 106 schools visited appeared to “lack the ability, resources, knowledge or will to offer children even a mediocre education…. most of these were led by individuals who had little to no background in running schools and no resources other than state payments. ” (Borsuk 2006).