Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The question: Boost or boot vouchers in Maryland?


More than a thousand people are expected to attend a rally in Maryland’s capital tomorrow to express support for the state’s BOOST program, a form of voucher that provides partial tuition for eligible students who attend eligible private or religious schools, WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) reports.

Lt Gov Boyd Rutherford, right, at the 11th Black History Month (Joe Andrucyk / Maryland GovPics via Flickr CC)

Meanwhile, three potential Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to eliminate the use of public money for private school vouchers, despite the current governor’s request for a funding increase, WJZ-TV (CBS affiliate) reports.

(Gov Larry Hogan, a Republican, has held a very high approval rating through the first two years of his governorship, despite some disagreement over policy.)

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker both said at a news conference yesterday that lawmakers should oppose the governor’s $7 million allocation for the BOOST program, which stands for Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today.

As we reported, three recent, large-scale studies have shown that vouchers cause harm to the students who receive them, independent of other factors, as much as those factors can be controlled in correlative studies.

As we also reported, whenever the question of vouchers has been put to the public at the ballot box, voters have resoundingly rejected the measure.

As we also reported, Betsy DeVos, the current US secretary of education, is a strong proponent of vouchers, which divert money away from public schools and send it to religious or for-profit private schools, including virtual or online schools. In Maryland, though, no virtual schools are eligible for the BOOST program, and it has important caps, despite the governor’s stated hope of raising some of those caps.

As we have also reported, Nobel laureates in economics have said the privatization of public functions has a strong tendency to lead to a reduction in the quality of those public functions that have been handed over to private contractors, especially when those private interests aren’t accountable to voters or to any elected officials.

I join my voice with the millions of Americans who have shown up at the ballot box, in at least 28 democratic elections since 1966, to defeat vouchers in education by, on average, a 2-to-1 margin.

In the big picture, vouchers are bad for the public schools, because they take money away and force those schools to cut educational or enriching, fun programming.

And they’re bad for the good private schools that accept them, because those schools’ development efforts are then steered away from the educational programming they provide, which is typically of higher quality than the worst public schools in our communities. The good private schools have no choice but to direct their efforts toward attracting new students to compete for voucher funds from the state.

“We can’t afford to fund two systems of education,” Mr Kamenetz said. “This voucher-based program is really part of a national Republican effort to privatize public schools.”

There has been some support historically from Democrats for voucher programs as well, although it has largely dried up since the election of Donald Trump.

The governor’s office issued a statement, saying, “The idea for the BOOST Program—which came from Speaker (Michael) Busch and (Senate) President (Mike) Miller and received widespread support from Democrats in the General Assembly—is a prime example of the governor’s commitment to bipartisan solutions.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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