Replicating Failure: Colorado Vouchers Mimic Other States' Mistakes

New Report Highlights Dangers of Colorado Voucher Law

Mistakes in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin Foreshadow Failure in Colorado

As Coloradans wait to see whether a court decision striking down the state’s new voucher law will be upheld or overturned on appeal, People For the American Way Foundation has issued a new report: Replicating Failure: Colorado Vouchers Mimic Other States’ Mistakes. The report cites the high potential for abuse inherent in voucher programs, and examines parallels with the problems other cities and states have experienced with voucher laws, including Cleveland, Milwaukee and Florida.

The report includes accounts of unreliable educational standards, the potential for discrimination against students, and a lack of accountability in both fiscal management and student performance. Replicating Failure explores the problems exposed by the history of other voucher programs:

- Since private voucher schools can “cherry-pick” students, most of the benefit goes to those schools, hence, vouchers do not serve the vast majority of the neediest children.

- the number of available seats in private schools is limited and student admission is prioritized by past enrollment and by sibling enrollment.

- Private voucher schools may discriminate against certain students based on disability, sexual orientation, English language proficiency or past behavioral problems.

- Voucher programs generally lack fiscal and academic accountability, which can lead to incidents of corruption and mismanagement and can even risk student health and safety.

- Unlike public schools, private schools do not have to comply with open record laws, open their books to the public, or report school achievement data.

“Voucher supporters in Colorado refuse to acknowledge the serious problems associated with voucher programs across the country,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “The court made the right decision. The voucher law clearly violated the state Constitution. Nevertheless, even when you put legal decisions aside, the experience in other states shows us that vouchers are wrong for Colorado schools and Colorado kids. State officials and legislators should respect the will of Colorado voters and focus on reforms that we know work, like reducing class size, teacher training, and programs that encourage parental involvement.”

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