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Gazette Premium Content State has already rejected public money for private schools

Jan Tanner Updated: October 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I am puzzled that there is still talk about using public tax money to fund private education institutions. Coloradans have rejected school vouchers or tuition tax credits twice (1992, 1998), and the Colorado Supreme Court declared a state voucher law unconstitutional (2003). The Colorado Supreme Court declared that the law ran afoul of the local control provision in the Colorado Constitution. Most recently, a district court enjoined Douglas County School District from implementing vouchers (2011).

Although the U.S. Supreme Court held that voucher programs don't violate the U.S. Constitution, Americans are not convinced that such programs are the way to go (PDK/Gallup 2003, 2013.) After all, improving all students' achievement is the most important objective. Private schools don't have to address all of the demands and standards established by No Child Left Behind (2001) for public education. Accountability and achievement measures abound in Colorado's public system. Vouchers would create an uneven playing field because public schools abide by many rules that aren't applicable to private schools. Vouchers offer a diversion from improving the quality of education for all American students.

I've been involved in public education since my child started pre-school in 1993. I was elected to my local board of education in 2006. In two decades of research, I've seen no evidence that vouchers in my district would be used to close achievement gaps, ensure quality teachers in every classroom, or improve efficiency and accountability. These are the things that Colorado public schools are expected to do-while graduating students who are prepared to get jobs or seek post-secondary education.

As it is now, families are free to choose schools within or outside their own districts. This provides parents and students the opportunity to explore offerings and decide the best fit for individual learning styles and interests. This improves public schools. If schools are not responsive to the needs of the learners, they don't continue to enroll students.

Families are interested in public options, including charters, but they are not clamoring for de-funding the public system in order to funnel dollars into a system with less accountability to taxpayers.

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Jan Tanner serves as president of the D11 School Board and is the president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

Response:

The "confirmed positive effects" are not as apparent as Andrea Van Nort claims. Diane Ravitch, famous initial supporter of the school privatization movement (vouchers), completely reversed her opinion after careful scrutiny of research from the last decade. Interestingly, Van Nort notes vouchers provide no measurable improvement in students' critical thinking, even though that is one of the key focuses of a 21st century education. Promoting vouchers as a way to enhance diversity is absurd; vouchers increase stratification.

Families using vouchers are distinguished by their bounty of extra knowledge, time, opportunity, and, often, money to pay the added costs of private programs.

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