Educational vouchers represent a system of education finance in which parents are given a tuition certificate that can be used to attend participating public or private schools. Education vouchers can be paid by public (government) or private (corporations, foundations) funds. Many different kinds of voucher plans have been proposed. Each may address the needs of different students and emphasize different priorities. For example, the dollar amount of a voucher differs considerably among different plans. Also, a voucher can be given to low-income students, to students in failing schools, or to the entire population. However, all publicly-funded voucher programs take funds usually given directly to public schools and allocate them to parents to decide where money for their child’s education will be spent.
|For further discussion of education vouchers, see the following NCSPE article:|
|Occasional Paper 5: Levin, Henry M. 2000. “A Comprehensive Framework for Evaluating Educational Vouchers.” http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/245_OP05.pdf|
Why are publicly-funded education vouchers controversial?
Publicly-funded education vouchers allow families to make private decisions regarding how public taxpayer money should be spent. Therefore, a voucher program hopes to create an educational market where schools must compete for students. Supporters claim market benefits, such as choice and innovation, will improve education. Opponents fear that vouchers will lead to greater inequality and the loss of civic preparation. Current evidence concerning the impact of vouchers is disputed. The potential advantages and disadvantages of publicly-funded vouchers are listed below.
What are the possible advantages of publicly-funded vouchers?
- Increased Choice. A tuition certificate, especially for low-income families, helps parents afford to choose a school suited to their child’s needs.
- Greater Competition. As families gain the ability to choose the school their child attends, schools may have to improve to attract students.
- Targeted Assistance. Vouchers can be aimed at a particular struggling student population and offer assistance without changing the entire public education system.
- More Parental Discretion. Vouchers provide parents with significant authority over the knowledge and skills their child will learn.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.
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