NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Protecting Voucher Schools From Government Meddling

January 26, 1999

The U.S. Supreme Court in November let stand a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision recognizing tax-funded education vouchers as constitutional, buoying similar efforts in at least seven states. But some observers are warning that governments may try to turn private schools that accept voucher students into clones of public schools.

  • In the Milwaukee program, for instance, private schools are allowed to decide how many voucher students they will accept, but the students must be chosen by lottery -- rather than through their regular admissions process.
  • Also, an opt-out provision exempts children from religious activities they or their parents find objectionable, which could compromise the very purpose of some schools.
  • Once it became clear that the Milwaukee vouchers would extend to religious schools, the state's Department of Public Instruction joined with civil liberties groups in an effort to saddle private schools with over 300 pages of antidiscrimination rules.
  • A spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction has stated that "any school that takes public funds ought to be required to do the things that public schools do."

So far, such efforts to impose state regulations have failed in the courts -- largely because the vouchers give public funds not to schools, but to parents. Voucher proponents insist that a legal firewall -- tested in the courts -- will be vital if voucher programs are to succeed.

Source: Joe Loconte (Heritage Foundation), "Schools Learn That Vouchers Can Have a Hidden Cost," Wall Street Journal, January 26, 1999.


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