In The Beginning — or at least early on in the school voucher program discussion, the talking points were often along the lines that vouchers would help poor students escape failing public schools. Steve Hinnefeld, writing for School Matters, has a post with numbers showing that if that was ever the real intent (it wasn’t) the structure of Indiana’s voucher program is such that it’s serving a wealthier, whiter population that never went to public schools in the first place and probably wouldn’t have even in the absence of vouchers. Over 1,300 households participating in the voucher program make more than $100,000 per year. Overall:
The state is paying $161.4 million to fund the program, which provides vouchers to pay for private-school tuition for students who qualify by family income and other criteria. Some 36,290 students, about 3 percent of Indiana’s school-age population, participate. Nearly all the 329 participating schools are religious schools. Most are Catholic, Lutheran or Evangelical Christian schools.
Fifty-eight percent of voucher students are white, 21 percent are Hispanic and 12 percent are African-American. Given that three of five voucher students come from what the state classifies as “metropolitan” areas, that suggests white students are disproportionately represented.
This reinforces my view that the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.
(Updated to include a link provided to me by Up North Progressive with notes from an early strategy session with regard to the Michigan “school choice” movement showing that the damage to traditional public schools was premeditated.)