Misguided and obstinate, proponents of school vouchers have promised that voucher legislation will be offered in the 2013 session. And with the new Republican majority, the chance of passage is good. Friends of the public schools, and believers in the separation of church and state, should be building their defenses. With bricks.
They don't work anywhere, but vouchers' most prominent failure has been in the schools of Washington, D.C. In 2004, during the George W. Bush administration, Congress approved the use of public funds to pay the tuition of District of Columbia students attending religious and other private schools. This was supposed to be a five-year pilot program, to see if vouchers would improve academic performance. Vouchers didn't, and yet the program is still going, thanks to the influence of powerful politicians such as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Study after study, including the one done in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education, has found no conclusive evidence that Washington's voucher students do better on math and science tests than their public-school peers. Furthermore, it's been shown that the vouchers, worth $8,000 to $12,000, don't come close to paying the annual tuition at exclusive private schools in the area (most of whom don't want voucher students anyway). The vouchers primarily are a taxpayer-funded bailout for struggling Catholic schools, and a means of establishing private schools of strange origin and dubious merit. The curriculum at one Washington voucher school is based on the theories of an obscure Bulgarian psychotherapist. Another voucher school is affiliated with the Nation of Islam, a sect that promotes racial separation and has a record of anti-Semitism and homophobia.
Voucher programs elsewhere, including Boehner's home state, are similar. Money spent on vouchers could be put to better use in the public schools that serve everyone, regardless of race or religion.