Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do Vouchers helps low-income families?

Pennsylvania seems heading towards privatizing education, and the push for vouchers is stronger now than it has been in the last few years.  I grew up with 12 years of public education, and I felt that my education was one of good quality.  While I do recognize that not everyone’s public education is of good quality, I am still not in favor of moving towards privatized education.  My largest reason for this opposition is my belief that all children, regardless of background or circumstance have the right to free, quality education.  While vouchers have been a proposed solution to improving education standards, it inevitably ends the right to free education.

I first heard about vouchers as a college student, so I have no direct experience with them.  This challenged me to research, especially with Governor Corbett’s ambition to pass a new bill providing more vouchers.  In my research, I found what I suspected: They are not as beneficial to low-income families as is presented.  The primary misconception about vouchers is vouchers will provide enough money for any private education.  In reality, “The amount of money that a student would actually receive wouldn’t even be enough to afford tuition at most private schools” (Parker, 2011).   If families pursue vouchers for private education, they will most likely need to pay the difference of the cost out of pocket.  For low-income families and even many middle-class families, is this a realistic expectation?

The average voucher per student is estimated to be around $7,000.  Compare this to the average yearly cost of private institutions in the National Association of Independent Schools, which is $17,441 (  Even if students receive other scholarships, families will inevitably be required to spend thousands of dollars a year to pay the difference.  Most low-income families will not be able to afford this balance, so many children in low-income families will continue to attend public school.

Since vouchers are generated through public funds, I think it is safe to assume that public school systems will receive less government funds as voucher money increases.   As students begin to receive voucher funding, some will leave the public school system.  Thus the funding will follow the student, leaving a larger gap in budgets for public education.  Pennsylvania State Senator, Bob Mensch, argues, “public schools in fact will not be harmed by voucher spending, because the state’s funding will transfer with the student… Who is the funding to really benefit, the student or the school” (Stein, 2011)?  In fact, if you look at his logic, it proves that public schools will be further harmed by this change, as revenues will transfer.  If public schools were already receiving sufficient funding, this would not be an issue, but with insufficient budgets, it seems likely that problems in the public school will not improve.  Instead of fixing the current system, state officials are pushing to invest in a new one. 

The biggest question I have is who will actually benefit from this bill?  Intentions are presented as to help low-income families, but from the facts, I doubt these will be the families benefiting.  While some students will be able leave “failing schools” A.K.A. urban, low-income, ethnic minority schools, most will remain in an even more underfunded school.  The voucher solution does not leave room to see underfunding may be the reason for “failing schools.”  Instead, state officials choose to give up on the system, which in fact will harm the majority of the people they are “aiming to help.”  While I do not doubt this bill will benefit some, my question is, “who will benefit?”     

Parker, Daesya. "Students Say No to Vouchers." Philadelphia Student Union. Philadelphia Student Union, 23 June 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <>.

Stein, Linda. "Pennsylvania's Voucher Proposal Stirs Local Education Debate -" The Reporter : Serving North Penn, Indian Valley and Neighboring Communities. The Reporter, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <>.

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