As a new president comes into power, we are all sure that there will be a lot of changes taking place. Everyone is aware of the obvious controversy that surrounds the election. But now that the election is over it’s time to actually witness how Trump will deal with some of the country’s most serious issues, in particular, critical issues in education are a primary concern for many families across the country.
In his corner, Donald Trump has selected Betsy DeVos to be the new secretary of education. The two of them happen to agree in a lot of different areas. Whether or not that is good for the country is yet to be seen. One area of interest where they both share common beliefs is in the school voucher system. The school voucher system has been one of the critical issues in education since the late 1980’s.
What Is The School Voucher System?
In simple terms, a voucher could be viewed as a coupon. The funding for this coupon is supported with dollars from tax paying citizens. Except, these coupons aren’t used for 50 percent off of your next pair of pants. They are used to put children into schools of their choice. This includes private schools or schools with religious teachings. Basically, any school that wants payment from families before students can attend.
In this way, vouchers are a lot like scholarships. They are often referred to as such. The difference is that they aren’t reserved for higher education. Vouchers are also typically reserved for families with low income or students with disabilities. So if a family could afford to pay a school’s tuition, then they likely wouldn’t qualify for a voucher to pay it for them. Makes sense.
Vouchers aren’t anything new, but they are just now returning to the spotlight. School vouchers existed as far back as 1869 in America. A similar system was introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1900’s and now more than 70 percent of their students attend private schools.
Vouchers became a hot-button issue again in the 1980’s when the Reagan administration pushed for them. Similarly, George W. Bush wanted them as well. So the desire to implement this system isn’t necessarily a crazy move by Donald Trump.
Do They Work?
In a sense, the vouchers have worked very well in many areas. The primary concept behind the honest use of vouchers is that students have a choice in where they receive their education. Thus, students who may not be able to afford high-quality schools or who may live in zones with terrible schools can still receive a first-class education. But, of course, the agendas behind the use of vouchers hasn’t always been so honest.
In total, there are 14 states today that utilize student vouchers. A few of these states include Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. Some of these states have seen great success with the program, while it has been heavily debated in others.
So What’s The Problem?
The freedom to choose a school seems like a great opportunity at first glance. Why would there be any opposition? The thing is, once you start using tax payer’s dollars to fund something, there are going to be those who disagree. After all, that’s money coming from their pocket, in a sense.
One of the biggest concerns is the separation of church and state. Many states have something enacted call “Blain Amendments”. These amendments prohibit the spending of tax payer dollars on schools with a religious affiliation. The use of school vouchers to attend a religious school thus violates this amendment.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court decided in 2002 that school vouchers did not violate the constitution. It all boils down to the independent decisions of the states. This is why only some states utilize the voucher system while it is not allowed in others.
Is It Good For Parents And Students?
Religion aside, the primary concern for parents is, “Will this voucher system prove useful to my child?”. Luckily, various studies have taken place in states where the voucher system is used. As this is one of the critical issues in education taking center stage again, it’s a good idea to review these statistics.
Interestingly enough, most studies find the impact of school vouchers to range from neutral to slightly positive on the scores of students. Yet, on the other hand, a study in 2007 found that despite the slight gains in scores, the system still has many weaknesses that must be refined.
It The Right Choice?
That’s a question that only you can answer. As for Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, they have both stated their obvious support for the school voucher program. It does have some interesting benefits for students and parents, but not without its legal and religious complications. Only time will tell how this critical issue in education will work itself out.