(Oakland, CA) School vouchers, such as those mandated by this year’s California Proposition 38, will increase racial inequality in public schools according to a new report from the Applied Research Center. Vouchers: A Trap, Not a Choice argues that the measure would leave the majority of low-income students and children of color in debilitated public schools, while affluent families would receive subsidies for private education.
Co-author Tammy Johnson sums up the report’s findings: "Only parents who already can pay to send their children to private schools could use vouchers in real life. California private schools are already nearly completely filled. Those parents are mostly white, while the kids who need help are often from communities of color."
In addition to pointing out the limitations of Proposition 38, the report surveys the results of "experimental" voucher programs in other states. It also outlines the racist history of vouchers in this country. Historically, white parents have used vouchers to avoid racial integration. In 1959, Prince Edward County, Virginia closed its public schools and provided public tuition vouchers to support a private school, which admitted only whites.
The current voucher proposal has no safeguards to prevent new variations on this racist history, allowing de facto discriminatory practices such as private schools denying access to voucher students based on academic record, disciplinary record, inability to pay full tuition, or lack of fluency in English.
"California schools are already failing children of color. Vouchers would make a bad situation worse, " asserts Johnson.
The Applied Research Center (ARC) is a public policy institute advancing racial justice through research, advocacy and journalism.