How could educational vouchers affect Springfield school district?

As President Trump begins to reveal more and more of his plans for his presidency, the controversial Republican continues to turn heads, especially with his pick for educational secretary Betsy Devos.

Devos, an outsider to the American school system, is also a strong supporter of school vouchers, which many believe could be crucial to the downfall of public schools.

However, how could such a system affect SPS 186?

According to ncsl.org, a voucher system consists of “state-funded scholarships that pay for students to attend private school rather than public school.” Private schools must also “meet minimum standards established by legislatures in order to accept voucher recipients.”

Although voucher systems are well and alive in the U.S., such as in states like Georgia and Louisiana, Trump’s plan would make the system nationwide, affecting areas like Chicago where public schools are already suffering. The national system would also increase the number of students who receive vouchers from 170,000 to 11 million, according to an article from vox.com.

The proposed system would cost approximately $20 billion of federal government spending, plus $110,000 provided by each state itself, giving each child a $12,000 voucher.

As Illinois is already in a budget crisis, the question of how the Springfield public school district would be affected is a valid one.

23 private schools currently populate Sangamon County, 4 of which offer a full high school education.

“School choice” is not a new concept to the district. According to the Illinois Times, the concept was brought up in January of last year by Gov. Rauner after he dedicated the week of Jan. 24 to Jan. 30 “School Choice Week.”

Although public charter schools like Ball Charter offer similar concepts like a lottery system, superintendent Gill has shown her worry for numerous charter schools popping up within the district.

“Any school that would pull away from the average number of students in the district would pull away dollars,” Gill said in the article published by the Illinois Times.

With the District of Columbia as well as 13 other states that offer vouchers acting as guinea pigs, information on the policy is easy to find for states and school districts anticipating the change.

One example being studied is the Indiana voucher program, which has skyrocketed in the past five years.

According to an article published by The Washington Post, “more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools.”

Many of these recipients are even wealthy families, as only, “3 percent of new recipients of vouchers in 2015 qualified for them because they lived in the boundaries of F-rated public schools.” The leniency for qualification is leading to a plummet in public school education.

However, one of the main arguments for a voucher program is not its affect on public schools, but its potential to improve student achievement.

Yet, most voucher programs have failed to show positive results of improved achievement. A report by the National Education Association lists numerous examples of voucher program results.

One example, a study conducted in 1997 by The Ohio Department of Education, found that not only was there “no significant differences in third-grade achievement between voucher students and their public school peers at the end of the first year,” but that the students were performing at lower levels than their public school peers by the end of the second year.

Another example conducted in Milwaukee by Dr. John Witte in 1990 concluded that even in the fourth year of the program, student achievement “was not significantly different for voucher students than for other low-income Milwaukee public school students,” according to the report by the NEA.

According to The Huffington Post, many critics are currently calling the program a failed one.

Still, just because the program has failed elsewhere does not mean it could not bring results to Illinois. A voucher system has been proposed in Illinois before, specifically Senate Bill 2494, but on May 8, 2010, the bill was unable to pass in the Illinois House of Representatives.

The bill was designed and proposed to low performing school districts in Chicago.

With little results being shown in the past decade, many continue to worry about the possibility of a nationwide system. As a vote for Betsy Devos was approved on Tuesday, considerations will soon go to the Senate for full approval, determining whether the district will have to tackle the matter more aggressively in the future.

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