Breaking Down Controversial School Voucher Programs

What is a School Voucher?

school voucher program
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Question: What is a School Voucher?

School voucher programs are a controversial topic and often bring hotbed conversation. What is a school voucher? How are they used? What are some advantages and disadvantages of a school voucher program? These issues are answered here.


School vouchers are a certificate given by the state government that allows parents to take their child’s portion of that state’s per pupil spending and apply it to the school of their choice (i.e. private, charter, virtual, home) instead of the public school district in which their child resides.

The school voucher issue is a highly controversial program. They may also be referred to as educational vouchers.

What are the advantages of school vouchers?

School vouchers give parents who would not otherwise be able to afford it some choice in their child’s education. Public education is the cheapest form of education for parents. Many American’s simply cannot afford other educational choices for their children such as a private school. The voucher system gives them the opportunity for this type of choice.

Another advantage is that all taxpayers pay for public school funding regardless of the type of school their child attends. A parent, who has a child in the private school system, is also paying for the public school system. This eliminates that "double payment" by allowing a parent to designate where their education-related tax dollars go.

Proponents also argue that school vouchers would provide more competition across schools, which would in turn improve the quality of education for all students.

  The notion behind this is that public and private schools would "up their educational game" to retain and attract top tier students. Public and private schools would, in essence, compete to maintain or increase enrollment.

What are the disadvantages of school vouchers?

The opportunity to undermine the public education system is presented with the school voucher programs.

Public school enrollment and funding would take a huge hit. Essentially opponents of school vouchers say that the monies being taken away from them through the voucher program would not be replaced, and it would be difficult to be competitive without adequate funding.

It can also be argued that private schools, many who control enrollment, will not have enough room to meet the potential demand, thus having to turn down students who wish to attend their school. Opponents also argue that parents who take the vouchers to home school their child may not be spending it properly on their child’s education.

Finally, it can be argued that through a voucher program, students could be seen more as an end to a means rather than being valued as an individual student. Our students should be valued as more than a dollar sign.  While money is important to our schools, our students should never be a pawn in a political game. Decisions made at the district or student level should be made based on how it impacts each student, not because it will bring more or less money into the school.