Amongst many actions the newly elected Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has taken since joining President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, such as insulting middle school teachers, complaining about critics making her life a “living hell,” and making an ambiguous statement about the Common Core State Standards, she has also decided to implement a certain policy that will replace public schools with a universal voucher program that will benefit private and religious schools.
The voucher program originated when Milton Friedman, a free-market economist, expressed his support for the use of government funds for education in a 1955 essay, which stated that “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literary and knowledge on the part of most citizens.” Milton’s essay initiated the belief that the government should give parents vouchers that would allow them to send their children to a school of their choice, such as private schools or charter schools.
DeVos has been a long-time advocate of school choice through such a voucher program. President Trump also expressed his support for the voucher program by stating that he would spend $20 billion to fund the vouchers for school choice. This decision can affect every American citizen in the form of scholarship tax credits.
However, not only would the universal voucher program have a questionable effect on the American citizens, but it also has not been proven to be an effective tool for American education.
Do the vouchers actually benefit the students? According to the NY Times, researchers received data about the academic achievement of voucher students and public school students for a standardized state test. In Indiana, the test results showed that “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” For example, public elementary school students who had scored 50th percentile in math dropped to the 26th percentile after they transferred to new schools through a voucher program. Similarly, in a study of the Louisiana voucher program, researchers found that the average score levels fell 24 percentile points in both math and reading.
Mark Dynarski, an education researcher and voucher expert, told Business Insider that “the [studies] show[ed] incontrovertible evidence that no, those kids did not learn more.” Similarly, Kevin Carey, director of the education policy program, said, “These results are without precedent in the educational literature. Among the past results, none were as positive as these are negative.”
As DeVos continues to set new policies for the school system, Americans are anxiously waiting to see what will happen to their children and their futures.