School Voucher Programs Attracting Public Interest–and Public Funding

July 26, 2011; Source: State Impact One of the most politically supercharged issues in public policy is school vouchers. According to State Impact, a project of National Public Radio, interest in school vouchers is skyrocketing–often with public funding behind the interest. For example, in Ohio, there is a state voucher program called EdChoice which pays as much as $4,250 for grade school students and $5,000 for high school students to attend one of 312 private schools. More than 80 percent of the participating schools are religious, mostly Catholic. Last year Ohio handed out 14,000 vouchers to students in the worst performing schools in the state, and this year the state plans to double that to 30,000. Next year it will double again to 60,000. School choice advocates say that those numbers are too low, since there are 85,000 to 90,000 income-eligible pupils attending these troubled schools theoretically eligible for vouchers if they were available.

Are the advocates of school choice who have pursued the generally politically acceptable alternative of charter schools really aiming for funding for private and religious schools that, unlike charter schools, are completely outside the public school systems?—Rick Cohen