• IDRA Newsletter • August 1997

Private School Vouchers Debated
August 1, 1997

Extremely concerned about proposals by some legislators to institute a private school voucher program in Texas, IDRA expressed its concern by, among other things, directing a letter to legislators. Below is an excerpt of that letter. For more than 24 years we have been a primary advocate for equalizing public school funding, early childhood education, bilingual education and other programs that would benefit low-income and minority children in our public schools. We find it disturbing that those pushing for a “voucher” program, supposedly to benefit poor children, are the same people who have opposed every positive program put forward to equalize educational opportunity.

What is worse, those same economically disadvantaged students are being touted by voucher proponents as the reason Texas’ public education system has “failed.” At the same time, proponents claim that it is those same students who will be the primary beneficiaries of a system that would defund public schools.

Public education in Texas is already under funded. Vouchers would simply mean that the children in public schools with the fewest resources will be left behind in public schools that are even poorer and more inadequate. These same children – students with special needs, minorities, low-income children, disabled students and students who do not speak English – are truly unlikely candidates for private schools that use their own criteria for selection.

Whether it is called “choice,” “parental choice,” “free schools,” “vouchers” or whatever euphemisms become fashionable, use of public funds for private education is prohibited by many state constitutions. The framers of those documents intended for the state to exercise its obligation to educate the citizenry by providing public, free schools to all children.

If the public schools need improvement – and we at IDRA agree that they do – then let us do that. Let us not shut down the educational opportunities we fought so hard to improve.

[©1997, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 1997 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]