The Trump administration has made the subject of vouchers for private schools a cornerstone of its education agenda. What many are wondering is what this means for education and who exactly this program benefits.
Some individuals believe that the program will be key to leveling the playing field between those low-income families and their wealthier counterparts. They believe that the vouchers will be the key to increasing the income and the opportunities of future generations from the less-fortunate families in America.
After all, private schools are known to have much higher standards and more rigorous learning programs than public schools. Not only that, but 60 to 80% of private school teachers have an advanced degree. These schools raise the child’s chances of getting into university tremendously.
What many are not familiar with, however, is that the voucher program has been used before, just not on a national level.
The oldest school voucher program originated in Milwaukee in 1990 and had the singular focus on African-American students living in poverty. The program was met with a lot of criticism, especially as it progressed and test results were shown to have actually gotten worse as a result.
There have been heated debates on the subject of private school vouchers, especially in their early days in Milwaukee. The two leaders of these debates are Howard Fuller and Wendall Harris.
Fuller, a professor at Marquette University, is one of the architects of the voucher program of 1990. He’s also the former superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools and one of the founders of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which is a national pro-voucher and school choice group.
Fuller acknowledges that the test results were poor but states that they “shouldn’t be the only metric with which we should gauge the success of vouchers.”
“What I’m saying to you is that there are thousands of black children whose lives are much better today because of the Milwaukee parental choice program,” Fuller said. “They were able to access better schools than they would have without a voucher.”
Harris is still not convinced of the success of the programs but concedes that they are here to stay.
“We fought with everything we had to stop vouchers,” said Harris. “That battle is lost. What we have to do now is try and make this thing the best it can be to support our children.”