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  May 25, 2016
 
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RENOWNED SCHOOL CHOICE ADVOCATE REJECTS NEVADA'S SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM

Howard Fuller is a professor and founder of two organizations -- the Institute for the Transformation of Learning and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) -- both of which cite expanding vouchers and charters for low-income families as their central mission. Dr. Fuller has been an outspoken supporter of vouchers and charters for over 25 years.

Yet Dr. Fuller is firmly opposed to Nevada's school voucher program called "Education Savings Accounts" or ESAs. Here's why he does not support ESA vouchers:

Dr. Fuller's support for vouchers and charters is based on his belief that they should be used as "a tool to empower communities," and to "provide those who do not currently have high-quality educational options" with access to good schools. Research shows vouchers do not actually improve educational outcomes, but the point here is, Nevada's ESA voucher program isn't even designed to address the inequities Fuller and other voucher proponents want to remedy.

Dr. Fuller explains that ESA vouchers closely resemble universal voucher programs, which have been widely criticized for providing public dollars to all comers, even the wealthiest families. As he puts it, "I could never approve of a plan that would give those with existing advantages even greater means to leverage the limited number of private school options, to the detriment of low-income families."

Dr. Fuller rejects the ESA voucher program in its entirety because it threatens to make educational inequities even worse. Some of the program's most harmful design features include:

  • No focus on low-income, at-risk or special needs students: The Nevada voucher program, if implemented, would be the only voucher program in the U.S. that does not target low-income or at-risk students. Public dollars are available to even the most affluent, and private schools have no incentive to accept those students in greatest need of expensive support services.
  • No "means test" for vouchers: Any family may apply for a voucher, regardless of wealth. Although over one-half of Nevada's public school students are low-income, only 7% of early applicants for ESA vouchers live in low-income areas, compared with 80% who live in areas with incomes above the state median. This amounts to a public subsidy for private school tuition for the state's most advantaged families.
  • No cap on tuition for participating schools: An ESA voucher provides $5,100 per pupil, but the average private school tuition is $3,000-$5,000 more than the voucher value. This, plus the cost of transportation, uniforms, books, etc., makes affording private school distinctly more challenging if not impossible for low-income families.
  • No requirement for open admissions: Private schools are free to engage in "cream skimming," choosing only high-achieving students. There is no prohibition against excluding students based on at-risk educational status, religion, academic ability or sexual orientation.

Dr. Fuller's objections to Nevada's ESA vouchers are the same reasons why public school parents filed a lawsuit against the program as an unconstitutional diversion of public school funding to private schools, in violation of the Education Article of the Nevada Constitution. This is also why Judge James Wilson in January found ESA vouchers will cause "irreparable harm" to Nevada's public school children and blocked implementation of the program. The parents are also now vigorously defending Judge Wilson's preliminary injunction before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Read Dr. Fuller's full article: "Not so fast on the parade celebrating the Nevada ESA program"

For more on Nevada's voucher law and the fight to protect public education in the state, visit these Education Law Center web pages.

Related Stories:

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Molly A. Hunter

Education Justice, Director

mhunter@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 19

 
     
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