To the Editor:
I am a sophomore at Scarborough High School in Maine. My town has begun to face the issue of school choice as more alternative schools open in our area. These schools fragment student populations in such a way that they decrease the opportunities a large student body allows for, without increasing the quality of education.
Currently, House Bill 610 (or the Choices in Education Act of 2017) that faces Congress would expand school vouchers. I would like to express my opposition to this bill and to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ plan of using them to expand school choice.
I oppose the creation of new voucher programs because I believe school vouchers are destructive to public schools. Public schools need a critical mass of students to offer certain important (but often specialized) programs, such as Latin. When school districts are split between public schools and private schools, neither has enough students in order to offer these specialized classes, even though they may benefit students’ writing and general education.
Although private schools are sometimes a good option, they could never admit everyone. Taking money out of public schools’ budgets to allow some students to attend private schools harms the public system, which still has to educate a majority of students. Additionally, school vouchers aren’t proven to be effective. A 2014 study of the longest-running school voucher program in Milwaukee by the nonprofit Public Policy Forum showed that the city’s public school students in grades 3-10 outperformed voucher recipients in the same grades on statewide reading and math tests. A study released this year of Washington, D.C.'s, voucher initiative had similar results. It found that, a year after entering private schools, voucher students performed worse on standardized tests than their counterparts who applied but were not selected to participate in the voucher initiative.
The author is a 10th grader at Scarborough High School in Maine.
Mary Jane Uzzi
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2017 edition of Education Week as Vouchers ‘Harm’ Public Education