Republicans who support the voucher scheme that will drain public schools of resources keep pushing the narrative that Democrats don’t want poor kids to attend private schools with their kids. They point out that Roy Cooper sent his own daughter to private high school, but Cooper never asked the taxpayers to pick up the tab. They also don’t want to acknowledge that his other daughters went K-12 in public schools. He certainly didn’t ask rich people for a handout and that’s what Republicans are doing.
The GOP bill will give people who already have enough money to send their children to private schools even more money. The bill says that families making $250,000 a year “would get 45% of the average amount given per child in public schools.” That’s more than $3,000 per year. It’s also more than the federal child tax credit.
Let’s be clear. Despite all their free-market BS about competition improving public schools, vouchers are about political payoffs, not improving education. Today’s Republicans don’t really believe in public education. They’ve been starving it for years. They deride public schools as “government schools” and they believe teachers are overpaid and underworked. They want to shift public money into schools that share their ideologically narrow view, no matter the quality of education.
The largest recipients of voucher money are religious schools. The voucher scheme is a payoff to the GOP base to make sure that their kids don’t have to learn unpleasant scientific realities. They can teach creationism and have it subsidized by taxpayers. And everybody laughed when a couple of dimwitted GOP legislators proposed a state religion back in 2013.
Republicans claim that they are trying to improve public schools and give poor kids a chance for a better education. Research shows that vouchers provide neither of those outcomes. As the Brookings Institute noted, “on average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools.” In fact, they often don’t even provide the opportunity that they promise. At many top private schools, the cost of is still out of reach for poor families even with a voucher subsidy. As one researcher notes, “elite private schools with strong academics and large endowments often decline to participate in voucher plans.”
So back to that claim that Democrats don’t want their children to go to school with poor kids. Democrats have never said they oppose private education, but I doubt many Democrats are attending schools that are the recipients of voucher funds. Democrats are pro-public education regardless of where they send their children. They believe that our public schools are underfunded and that a decade of tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations has left our schools struggling. We’ve fallen to 49th in teacher pay and 42nd in pupil spending, so they have a pretty strong point. They believe in fully funding education, not shifting public funds to private schools. Roy Cooper was content to pay for both his daughter’s private school tuition and his taxes to pay for public schools. In contrast, Republicans want to further cut funding for public schools and further shift money from public education to rich people.
If Republicans want to subsidize their base and rich people to send their kids to private schools, they should present it as separate budget item and ask the people who have benefited from their tax policy to pay for it. They shouldn’t penalize public schools and the children who attend them.