A new report from the progressive Center for American Progress says President Trump’s campaign call for $20 billion in federally-backed private school vouchers could have dire impacts for the nation’s traditional public schools.
While details of such a plan have been difficult to come by since his inauguration, expanding school choice options and vouchers is expected to be a major component of the Trump administration’s K-12 policy, particularly under controversial new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
But Friday’s report from a Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank argues his voucher plan, one of Trump’s lone K-12 campaign promises, could destabilize many of the nation’s school districts, particularly thousands of the state’s smallest school districts.
From the report:
The findings underscore the severe limitations of President Trump and Secretary DeVos’ one-size-fits-all vision of nationalizing private-school vouchers. Public education in America is far from one-size-fits-all, and there is dramatic diversity within the more than 13,000 school districts across the nation—from the 1 million students in New York City’s more than 1,500 public schools, to the 60 students at the K-8 school on Beals Island, Maine, and its 100-student high school shared with the nearby town of Jonesport. Diversity can also be found among the 67 countywide districts in Florida educating more than 2.5 million students, the 545 districts in New Jersey educating nearly 1.3 million students, and the 413 districts educating fewer than 150,000 students in Montana.
When CAP staff members looked at the data, they found that there are:
- Nearly 9,000 sparse school districts that have four or fewer schools where voucher proposals are highly unlikely to work and could decimate the public system
- Another 2,200 average school districts that have five to eight schools where vouchers may not work and risk harming existing schools’ ability to serve millions of students
After excluding charter schools and regional agencies that are legally considered school districts, this means that 85 percent of the 11,200 regular school districts fall into these two categories of sparse and average districts where vouchers are entirely or more than likely to be unworkable as a logistical matter.
Private school vouchers have been a central plan of GOP-led school choice reforms across the country. Indeed, Republican leadership in the N.C. General Assembly plans to ramp up the state’s financial investment in vouchers by $100 million over the next decade, despite criticism that mostly religious private schools maintain discriminatory admissions policies toward other religions and LGBTQ students.
Nevertheless, North Carolina’s voucher movement has garnered traction with Republicans and a number of African-American Democrats in the legislature who say parents need more choices.