Information on voucher programs can be hard to find
- Congress allocates $15 million each year for a voucher program for students in Washington, DC, but there is little public data on how many students receive those vouchers, where they attend and how private schools receiving voucher funding compare to public schools on exams, according to The Washington Post.
- An investigation by the paper notes that voucher programs are receiving support from President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the latter stresses that more evidence and data regarding private schools is not as important as offering parents options for where to send their children.
- The Post learned that at least three of the top 10 private school programs in the country do not publish any information about how many students are enrolled and what kind of federal support the school receives, and seven of those programs either don't require students to take standardized tests for assessment or don't publicly release information about the exams.
The voucher program in Washington, DC, received a mixed report of its impact on students in an April analysis conducted by the Institute of Education Sciences. The report looked at students in the DC area who were accepted or rejected/denied voucher scholarships between 2012 and 2014. The report found that students who took vouchers saw a drop in mathematics achievement, with little to no gains reported in other areas. Still, Trump spoke in support of vouchers during a school choice function at the White House a few weeks after its release, which indicates that despite the uncertainty of how voucher programs have benefited students, the Trump administration is continuing to push for increased support from Congress.
However, it is not clear that such support will be allocated by Congress in the upcoming fiscal year budget. Last week, The Washington Post reported the details of a U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee bill funding the Education Department for the coming year. While there were budget reductions, the total cuts were far lower than the $9.2 billion Trump requested. Additionally, the bill seemed to indicate that $250 million to support expanding private school voucher programs would not be in the final bill, though this could change in the coming week.
According to the report, Trump also did not receive the $1 billion for programs that would encourage public school districts to move toward “choice-friendly policies.” Though Congress and the White House are controlled by individuals who have spoken positively about voucher policies, school and district leaders should not assume that voucher funding will considerably increase. If it is not funded in any manner in the FY18 budget, it might signal Congress’ desire to not draw more attention to the issue or allocate more resources to scaling federal support for such programs.