Distortions Cloud School Choice Debate: Teachers' Unions Lie in Campaign Against School Vouchers

June 14, 2001


WASHINGTON (June 14, 2001)- -- Former Milwaukee school superintendent Howard Fuller claims opponents of school choice are using lies and half-truths about the success of choice programs in Milwaukee to influence the debate on education in Congress.

"Opponents of school choice portray it as experimental and something to be feared," said Fuller. "The only thing 'new' about school choice is that we are now trying to extend it to low-income families."

Fuller and Kaleem Caire co-authored a study soon to be published by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), "Ten Myths About School Choice: Answering the Campaign Against School Vouchers." Fuller and Claire cited evidence to refute several "myths" about choice and tax funded school vouchers: Some examples:

  • "Choice schools are picking and choosing the children they want, but public schools cannot turn away anyone who comes to their door."-Wisconsin State Rep. Christine Sinicki.
  • "In Milwaukee, thousands of eligible students didn't participate in the choice program because they couldn't find schools that would accept them."-Sandra Feldman, president-American Federation of Teachers.

Fact: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier reported: "For the record, no student has formally complained of being denied admission to any choice school. There also appear to have been no such claims from a parent or family in Ohio or Florida, the other two states with voucher programs mainly for low-income families."

  • "Voucher programs in the city of Milwaukee adversely affect schools and class sizes are increasing while programs like art, music and physical education are being reduced."-Sam Carmen, executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

Fact: Actually, education budgets in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Pensacola-the three areas that have tax-funded private school vouchers-have all increased significantly. In Milwaukee, enrollment grew 8 percent, real spending increased 29 percent, state aid jumped 55 percent and the tax levy dropped by one-third.

  • "Experiments have demonstrated absolutely no evidence that vouchers help improve student achievement."-Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-NY.
  • "Every serious study of voucher plans concludes that vouchers don't improve student achievement."-National Education Association Web site, 1999.

Fact: Actual research refutes this myth. Several studies found statistically significant gains in the scores of voucher students.

  • The NAACP, long an opponent of tax-funded vouchers for private school education, said, "Vouchers encourage segregation."

Fact: More than half of all public school seniors (12th grade) are in classes that have more than 90 percent or fewer than 10 percent minority students. In private schools, just 41 percent of students are in similarly segregated classrooms.

"Choice already exists in American education," Fuller and Claire write. "It is manifest in the residential choices made by families and neighborhood housing prices. More than half of American families now exercise school choice; it's just that these myths about choice keep low-income families from having the same educational opportunities as others."