There is a bit of an unexpected tussle going on right now in the statehouse. You see, the Republican supermajority did not expect to have any problem pulling more money away from public education and giving it to private education entities. It turns out that people are pushing back, and the more they learn about the on-going scheme to give public money to private schools, the less they like it.
One of the chief documents being used to bolster this dubious effort is a five-year-old literature review from EdChoice titled A Win-Win Solution. This report claims to be the “gold standard,” and yet less than half of the references in the report were peer-reviewed, and a significant number were published by the very same organization. The idea behind a review of published works is to look at a multitude of diverse sources, not to selectively pick your own. At minimum, the legislature should look at more recent studies.
A 2018 peer-reviewed analysis of Indiana’s voucher program, based on publicly reported data from the Indiana Department of Education, demonstrated with statistical significance that voucher students do poorer on standardized math testing than public school students and that this deficiency is persistent. Although English scores are nominally the same, high-wage, high-demand, STEM-oriented jobs require math skills.
The public school system exists because it is in the best interest of the country to educate the entirety of the population. No one forces you to send your children to public school. You can have your children attend whatever kind of school you wish. However, the public shouldn’t have to pay for it. Public funds should only go toward funding the public school system.
Proponents of school choice would have you believe that our state is clamoring for the privatization of education, but this simply isn’t so. The general population overwhelmingly chooses public schools. Proponents of school choice would have you believe that diverting public school funding for vouchers somehow provides more money for children in public schools (no kidding -— they’ve said this). They would have you believe, in spite of the cited peer-reviewed evidence, that children somehow receive a superior education outside the public school system. They think the public won’t spot the potential for racial and social discrimination, the lack of accountability for the funds spent, or the documented cases of fraud within the education scholarship account (ESA) systems in other states.
Please join the legion of parents, teachers, and school board members in making your voice heard at the statehouse. Let your state senators and representatives know that you oppose efforts to divert public school funds to expand the voucher/ESA program and weaken Indiana’s public school system. Our more than 1 million children in public schools don’t deserve this.
Robert M. Stwalley is president of the Indiana School Boards Association.