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The editorial board of the News & Observer, the state’s largest newspaper sharply criticized the Republicans in the General Assembly for rushing to expand the state’s voucher program. They plan to raise the income requirement so that many more families are eligible, and they expect to increase the size of the voucher.
Senate leader Phil Berger peddles the same lie that Betsy DeVos so often spewed: that the voucher program would give poor families the same educational opportunities as affluent families.
The current size of the voucher is $4,200. Even if that is increased by $1,650, as proposed, it will still be far less than the tuition at a first-rate private school.
The editorial board writes:
Senate leader Phil Berger has long described the school voucher program he pushed through in 2013 as a way to enable poor families to afford private school tuition. Now that claim is being dropped in favor of offering vouchers to families earning well over the state’s median income.
At a 2019 news conference, Berger, an Eden Republican, said, “In 2013 we created the Opportunity Scholarships program to provide low-income families an amount up to $4,200 per year to access the education pathway best suited for their kids.” Last year at another news conference he cited his concern about a single mother who could not afford the best school for her child without state help. “School choice should not be a privilege only for those who can afford it,” he said.
What was true then, isn’t true now. Problem is it was never true. The low-income kids were props for launching a program to expand school choice overall…
The Senate bill’s rising eligibility level speaks to what has been going on all along and the reason why this Editorial Board has opposed vouchers from the start. The idea isn’t to give children a chance to escape a high-poverty public school. That was a pretext. The real idea is to eventually give parents of all incomes a chance to send their children to private schools at the public’s expense…
That approach undermines public schools. But that’s the point. Those who would privatize K-12 education first have to break confidence in public schools. The worse the public schools become, the greater the need for a private option.
Many, probably most of the children who use vouchers are attending church-run schools that are exempt from standards and accountability. They are not getting a better education than what’s available in public schools. They may be getting a decidedly worse education.