RELEASE: Trump-DeVos Plan to Voucherize Public Schools Is Unlikely to Work in 85 Percent of Public School Districts, New CAP Analysis Finds
Interactive map allows readers to see whether vouchers would work in their school district
Washington, D.C. — On the campaign trail, now-President Donald Trump laid out a plan to redirect $20 billion in federal education funding to support vouchers for private-school choice–and his new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has indicated strong support for such a program. Press reports now indicate that a $20 billion tax cut for private-school vouchers is under serious consideration. A new analysis from the Center for American Progress, however, shows that such a plan is unlikely to be viable in 85 percent of the more than 13,000 school districts in the United States.
“Public education is far from a one-size-fits-all endeavor. There is tremendous diversity across the country in what school districts look like and the needs of the students they serve, and our new president and education secretary should take the time to learn more about the needs of schools, students, and families before barreling ahead with an ill-devised plan to voucherize our public school system,” said Neil Campbell, Director of Innovation for the K-12 Education Policy team at CAP.
“In rural and suburban communities, private-school vouchers simply don’t address the real challenges facing those school systems, and implementing such an initiative could devastate the public schools. Betsy DeVos’ confirmation process made clear that the American people don’t appreciate nor will they accept this type of dismantling of our public school system,” said Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy at CAP.
Using data and an interactive map published by EdBuild, a national nonprofit focused on improving the way states fund public schools, CAP identified three types of districts, based on the number of schools located within each: sparse; average; and dense. Of the more than 13,000 districts in the analysis, 9,000 school districts are categorized as “sparse,” where there are four or fewer schools and where voucher proposals are highly unlikely to work and could decimate the public school system. Another 2,200 are average school districts that have five to eight schools, where vouchers may not work and risk harming existing schools’ ability to serve millions of students. The number of sparse and average school districts combined means that vouchers may not be a viable policy solution for 85 percent of school districts in the United States.
CAP’s analysis lays out the potential impact that the Trump-DeVos voucher plan would have on these three types of districts. In all cases, a voucher program—which, as CAP’s analysis shows, is already unworkable in the vast majority of districts—would draw valuable and scarce resources away from existing schools, leaving public schools without the necessary resources to support teachers, classrooms, and building maintenance. CAP’s column also shows how public-school choice—as opposed to private-school voucher programs—has proven feasible and effective in many urban districts across the United States, as Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes has shown.
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