Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nonprofit Criticizes School Vouchers Bill

A state think-tank says even with recent changes, a Senate proposal for a new school voucher program is “deeply flawed.”

Despite revisions that would cap some of the bill’s costs, the Keystone Research Center says the Republican school vouchers proposal would still divert hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to private institutes.

During its first year, the voucher program would give tuition assistance for low-income students in poorly performing public schools. Eventually, any family earning up to 350% of the federal poverty line would be eligible, including some students already enrolled in private schools.

KRC Executive Director Stephen Herzenberg says he has three main problems with the Senate Republicans’ proposal.

“First of all, it’s going to be expensive; second, it’s investing in a direction where there’s no evidence that you get better educational outcomes; and third, there’s no accountability built into the plan,” says Herzenberg.

The Senate’s recent changes to the bill include an accountability measure that would require private schools to report on student achievement. However, Herzenberg says this is “faux accountability,” because the choice of eight different achievement tests would make it difficult to directly compare results.

Herzenberg says private schools aren’t proven to improve education; he says investing into early childhood education and tutoring programs would be better.

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