On May 5th, an Indiana bill was signed into law creating a private school voucher program statewide. The Indiana program is unique in that it includes both a voucher component and a tax deduction, which is different from a voucher but is seen to accomplish many of the same goals, of $1,000 for each child in private or home school. School vouchers are payments, usually to parents, from private or public tax funds to pay for a child’s education expenses, usually in a private school. Indiana is just the most recent example of states proposing and/or amending tuition voucher legislation.
Voucher legislation has experienced a resurgence recently. If you follow this blog, you may have read the post in February about the proposed vouchers in an affluent Colorado district. Voucher bills are currently being considered or have been passed over the past few months in multiple states including Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Much of this renewed interest came on the heels of a Supreme Court decision. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s tuition tax credit for parents paying tuition for their children to attend private school. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a government tax credit, that may benefit religious schools, is different than government spending to support religious schools.
Voucher bills differ greatly by state. Most are limited to low-income families or students with disabilities. Some of the more well-known existing programs have received renewed funding or are undergoing various changes. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program will continue to be funded by the federal government as part of the budget compromise passed in April. The Wisconsin legislature is considering a bill to expand the Milwaukee voucher program statewide. More information on research into the impacts of school choice in Milwaukee conducted by the Choice Center is available from the project page, Impact of Choice and Competition in Milwaukee.
With all the current interest, what is known about the impacts of vouchers? The Choice Center has three projects that looked at the impacts of vouchers (see additional links below). Overall, the studies found that, like in most other types of school choice, context matters. Check out the research project links below to learn more!