• by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2002 • Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.

IDRA is deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Cleveland voucher case that endorses the use of public money to support private education. This ruling sets the stage for a new battle for public tax revenue, pitting public versus private education, a battle that promises to be detrimental for both.

The Intercultural Development Research Association has been deeply concerned about proposals to establish such programs for children and neighborhood public schools. Diverting public money for private schools takes money away from communities, resulting in higher taxes for homeowners and businesses in the community. More importantly, evidence shows that publicly-funded vouchers do not significantly improve educational achievement of students.

The dangers of such programs include the fact that private schools are not accountable to the public for their actions or results. With a voucher program, it is not the parents who have a choice. The private schools have the choice about which students to accept and which to reject. Vouchers would give a new government subsidy to private schools and wealthy parents with children already in private schools.

The most recent attacks on neighborhood public schools have been led by voucher proponents – individuals who have historically denied children their support for improved conditions in their public schools. With this decision, IDRA and others will need to monitor the aftereffects closely to ensure that a foundation is not established for creating an alternative system of schooling with access for a few and dysfunction for the many. Advocates of neighborhood public schools and community empowerment and proponents of the separation of church and state will continue to ally to counter this very serious threat to public education.

With this ruling, the battles shift back to the state level, where elected bodies will make the final decisions on proposed voucher programs. While the court ruling allows for states to subsidize private education, it does not require them to do so.
Despite the court’s ruling in this particular case, the fact remains: the best way to strengthen public schools is to strengthen public schools.

María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D., is the IDRA executive director. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2002, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June – July 2002 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.]