Voucher critics are starting to say the quiet part out loud

The Cleveland Scholarship Program gives students in kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to attend private schools in Cleveland such as Heritage Christian School. Maximum scholarship amount for K-8 students is $5,500; maximum amount for high school students is $7,500.

Editor’s note: This commentary from Jessica Poiner, senior education policy analyst at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, appeared last week on the institute’s website.

Persistent school choice critic Steve Dyer recently posted a “takedown” of Fordham’s latest school choice policy recommendations. His attacks mostly focus on Ohio’s voucher programs, and most of his criticism is tired and misleading enough that we’ve had to address it before. I won’t do so again here.

But buried among his many spurious arguments is a “recommendation” worth drawing attention to:

All voucher recipients have to attend the local public school for 180 days prior to applying for the voucher. If you’re going to take money away from public schools so kids they’ve “failed” can “escape” to private schools, shouldn’t you actually give the district a chance to succeed first?

It’s hard to know where to start with a statement that so unashamedly puts the financial needs of a system over the rights and wellbeing of people, namely kids. It is similarly difficult to fathom just how out of touch Dyer seems to be with anyone who might have had a negative experience with the district schools he champions.

So, let’s take it piece by piece.

“All voucher recipients have to attend the local public school for 180 days prior to applying for a voucher.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, 180 days is a whole school year. I say this because it’s important to realize that when Dyer recommends that state law require kids to attend their local public school for 180 days before they can access a voucher, he’s talking about an entire year of their lives.

It appears, given the rest of his piece, that he thinks this year will magically transform the wishes of any family who thinks that their child’s needs can best be met by a private school. But what happens if he’s wrong? Does Dyer have a plan to return to that family and that child the entire year’s worth of their lives he’s demanding? Doubtful.

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