Vouchers Sent to the Back of the Class

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PAUL WARNER/AP

Opponents of the school voucher proposal celebrate its projected defeat

Waiting for a voucher program to provide a cost-effective alternative your local, failing public schools? Donít hold your breath.

The tide against school vouchers appears to be building: On Election Day, voters in California and Michigan overwhelmingly defeated voucher propositions by a margin of 2-to-1, despite a $30 million pro-voucher campaign spearheaded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper. In Washington, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Colorado and Arizona, voters approved significant spending increases for public schools, another signal that the public isnít convinced of vouchersí potency.

Why such a groundswell of opposition? One theory holds that Americans simply arenít ready to give up on public schools, and indeed there is a widespread perception, fanned by voucher opponents, that accepting vouchers means leaving public schools out to dry.

Vouchers do garner some support, of course, particularly among conservative Republicans. But on the other side of the fence, fueling the growing resistance against vouchers, youíll find almost everyone else, including, according to most studies, many of the low-income families voucher advocates claim would benefit most from school choice programs.

The anti-voucher movement may also be helped by the current generation of parents, most of whom went to public schools back when there was still a great deal of faith in the system. Voucher advocates should take heart, however: Children of the 1990s, who have seen both the failings and strengths of modern-day public education first hand, may be more amenable to voucher programs by the time they are parents.


WEB RESOURCES
PBS's Frontline: The Battle over School Choice
"The Battle Over School Choice" is a PBS Democracy Project/Election 2000 Special.

American Federation of Teachers Voucher Resource Page
"The must visit site for informed decision makers"

The Heritage Foundation's School Choice info. Page
Links to policy papers on school choice, voucher and charter programs from 1991-2000