A recent article from USA Today highlights concerns over the growing trend of using taxpayer money to fund private school vouchers at the expense of public schools. The piece, written by public school advocates, warns of the potential damage this could cause to public education in states like North Carolina and Kentucky.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Public schools in North Carolina and Kentucky have seen record-high graduation rates, nearly 90%, and are ranked in the top 10 for National Board-certified teachers.
  • Initially targeted at low-income families or children with disabilities, voucher programs are now expanding, potentially diverting billions from public schools to private institutions with little accountability.
  • Rural counties, where private schools are often scarce, could be disproportionately affected, with taxpayer dollars being redirected to wealthier areas, further straining public school resources.

Public schools play a crucial role in community development, workforce strengthening, and economic growth. In states like North Carolina and Kentucky, public schools are not just educational institutions but also major employers, particularly in rural areas. The success of these schools is evident in their high graduation rates and the significant number of workforce credentials earned by students.

However, this success is under threat from the expansion of private school voucher programs. These programs, which have historical roots in efforts to avoid school desegregation, are being pushed by a coalition of lobbyists, private schools, and right-wing legislators. The strategy is to start small, targeting vouchers at disadvantaged groups, but then expand the programs to include wealthier families, redirecting public funds to private schools.

The Consequences of Changing Voucher Programs

The consequences of diverting funds from public to private schools are far-reaching. In North Carolina, a voucher program with no income limit or accountability could cost the state $4 billion over the next decade. In Kentucky, efforts are underway to amend the constitution to facilitate the use of taxpayer money for private education. This shift in funding threatens the constitutional guarantee of a public education for all children and risks leaving states like North Carolina and Kentucky at the bottom in terms of per-pupil spending and teacher pay.

The impact of voucher programs is particularly acute in rural communities, where public schools are often the only option. In these areas, the diversion of funds to private schools can result in a significant loss of resources for public education, with no alternative options for students. This has led to opposition from rural Republicans in states like Texas and Georgia, who recognize the potential harm to their local schools.

The Lack of Accountability in Private Schools

One of the major concerns with voucher programs is the lack of accountability for private schools receiving taxpayer money. Unlike public schools, which are subject to public assessments and transparency requirements, private schools are not required to hire licensed teachers, provide meals or transportation, or even disclose their curriculum or student performance. This lack of oversight raises questions about the quality of education and the use of public funds.

In conclusion, the expansion of private school voucher programs poses a significant threat to public education in states like North Carolina and Kentucky. The diversion of funds from public to private schools, particularly in rural areas, could undermine the success of public education and leave many students without viable options. The lack of accountability for private schools receiving taxpayer money further exacerbates these concerns, highlighting the need for a more balanced approach to education funding.

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