Whether they are being proposed by President Trump or Governor Hogan, vouchers are a failed shell game that shifts taxpayer dollars from public to private schools. When we have $3 billion in unmet needs in our public schools according to an independent analysis, any dollar dedicated to private schools—whether it’s $5 million, $10 million, or one dollar—keeps us from meeting those needs. The failed BOOST voucher program should be eliminated.
Different voucher plans have been introduced in various forms since 2006 in the face of broad opposition, including from MSEA, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, Maryland PTA, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and others. In 2016, Gov. Hogan included $5 million for the BOOST voucher program in his budget. An overwhelming majority of those taxpayer dollars—78%—were then distributed to families whose children already were enrolled in private schools.
We can’t afford to fund two different school systems—public taxpayer dollars should be spent improving our public schools, not subsidizing expensive private schools. Yet Gov. Hogan proposed doubling funding for vouchers in his 2017 budget, the same incremental expansion tactic used by governors like Mike Pence in Indiana and Jeb Bush in Florida. Indiana’s program now costs $131 million and Florida’s costs $358 million. Arizona’s program started at $4.5 million in 1997 and now tops $140 million. We must make sure that Maryland doesn’t also walk down this wasteful, unproductive path. While the General Assembly cut about 75% of Gov. Hogan's increase in vouchers funding in 2017, the program still remains and Gov. Hogan was able to incrementally increase its funding again in his 2018 budget. Click here to learn more about what's at stake and how voucher programs have consistently failed (while skyrocketing in cost) in other states.
Subsidizing Private Education, at Taxpayers' Expense
Research in Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, and Pennsylvania shows that a majority of students receiving the tax credit benefit already attend private schools and that the programs have pushed private school tuition up. A RAND Corporation study concluded that tuition tax credits rarely benefit poor children.
The private school advocates’ argument that voucher programs help low-income students escape failing public schools is not accurate. The facts show that such programs overwhelmingly help students already in private school, and for the small minority of those who do move from public schools, their academic performance usually drops.
According to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, 78% of students receiving vouchers through the BOOST program were already enrolled in private school. This follows trends from similar program all over the country—including Indiana, Georgia, and Arizona.
Study after study shows voucher programs fail to boost the academic achievement of participants — and often make it worse. Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction shows that students who participated in our country’s original voucher program in Milwaukee performed worse than or about the same as students in Milwaukee Public Schools in math. Even researchers at Notre Dame found in their study that students who switched from public schools to Catholic schools actually did worse in math. These studies, and many more like them, are the reason why The Brookings Institution now says, “Our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate.”
Private school voucher programs do not help low-income students escape failing public schools. All that these programs do is subsidize expensive private school tuition revenue with scarce public taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, private schools that would benefit from a tuition tax credit program are not accountable to the public in the way that public schools are for teacher quality, student achievement, attendance, entrance policies, graduation and dropout rates, and other relevant criteria.
"Maryland educators are deeply frustrated by Gov. Hogan’s proposal to drain twice as many resources from our public schools to subsidize private schools. The governor’s alliance with President-elect Donald Trump—who has proposed the idea of using $20 billion in taxpayer money for private school vouchers—on privatizing our public schools should be alarming to every Marylander who believes in the importance of public education," said MSEA President Betty Weller.
Sen. Madaleno, ACLU of Maryland, and Educators Call on Gov. Hogan to Withhold Funding for Private Schools
Earlier this week, the governor claimed the state is facing declining revenues in deciding to withhold $25 million that had been set aside for public schools, yet did not decide to hold back funding reserved for private schools. Sen. Madaleno, ACLU, and MSEA asked the governor to instead send the $5 million in taxpayer dollars to public schools to offset some of the damage from the cuts Gov. Hogan made earlier this week.
On January 27, Gov. Hogan's office released details on his 2016 proposals for education initiatives, including the same BOAST legislation he unsuccessfully introduced last year. Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, made the following statement: