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Vouchers

For the most up-to-date information on ELC's voucher work, please visit our News page.

Overview

For an up-to-date list of current voucher proposals in Congress and in state legislatures, click here

Protecting funding for public schools is critical to their success. Funding and support for public education are diminished when state legislatures divert taxpayer dollars to “vouchers” to pay for private and religious schooling. With vouchers a priority for the Trump administration, many states are moving to establish new programs or expand existing ones.

Education Law Center (ELC), in partnership with the Los Angeles-based Munger, Tolles & Olson (MTO) law firm, has established a Voucher Watch initiative to track new voucher proposals and provide information and analysis on existing voucher laws.

Voucher Watch is intended to inform and assist parents, teachers and advocates for public education in their efforts to oppose the establishment or expansion of vouchers in their states.

There are several types of voucher programs, including:

  • Tuition vouchers, which provide public funds to families to pay for private education;
  • Tax credit scholarship vouchers, which provide tax credits to individuals or corporations that donate to organizations providing “scholarships” to students for private education;
  • Education savings accounts (ESA) vouchers, in which public funds are deposited in an account to be used to pay for private education expenses.

At the Federal Level

Despite the negative impact of vouchers, President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos support the use of federal funds to expand voucher programs in the states.

President Trump has called for directing $20 billion from existing federal education programs to new state block grants to fund private, religious and home schooling. President Trump's budget released May 23, 2017, proposed the allocation of $250 million "for competitive awards for applicants to provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend the private school of their parents' choice."

For more information about voucher programs, click here. 

Research
has shown that vouchers do not improve student outcomes. Instead, vouchers drain critical resources from public education, thereby undermining the capacity of the public schools to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all students, especially those at-risk or with special needs. Vouchers also lead to increased segregation within our communities, and private schools accepting vouchers do not have to comply with anti-discrimination laws. Even with this compelling evidence, states continue to propose laws to create or expand vouchers, and Congress is considering using federal education funds to incentivize states to do so.

Advocacy & Litigation

ELC advocates for equal and high quality education for the nation’s public school children. While recognizing a family’s right to private schooling, ELC opposes any diversion of public funds to pay for, or otherwise support, private and religious education. ELC actively works with state and pro bono partners, including MTO, to oppose vouchers through research, litigation, policy and grassroots advocacy, and communications. 

Through the Voucher Watch initiative, ELC and MTO seek to assist local, state and national partners and networks in their efforts to monitor legislative developments, analyze voucher proposals, and take action to defeat those proposals. 

Some examples of our successful advocacy include:

In New Jersey, since 2010, ELC has led a broad coalition of advocates to block Governor Chris Christie’s proposals for a publicly funded “scholarship” voucher program, first through separate legislation and, in recent years, through the State Budget.

In New York, ELC has assisted the Alliance for Quality Education, a statewide advocacy organization for fair school funding, in efforts to defeat legislative proposals to establish and fund a tax credit scholarship program. 

In Nevada, ELC and MTO, in partnership with the Educate Nevada Now advocacy organization, represented parents and students in the Lopez v. Schwartz lawsuit challenging the state’s unlimited ESA program. In September 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that ESA vouchers violated the prohibition in the Nevada Constitution against using public school funds to pay for private school tuition and other private education services. The Court issued an injunction permanently blocking the program.