By proposing what amounts to a publicly-funded national voucher program in his State of the Union speech last night, President Bush is adding insult to the injury he has done to public schools over the last seven years. Programs such as the $300 million initiative Bush proposed further weaken already-struggling urban public schools by diverting tax dollars to religious and other private schools.
Studies of voucher programs, including a recent GAO report on the federal taxpayer-funded D.C. voucher program, have shown that they just don’t work. A 2006 report from the Department of Education also showed that students in public schools performed as well as students in private schools. Rather than attempting to shore up his failed No Child Left Behind program with yet another wrong-headed education proposal that would not serve the nation’s children, President Bush should use his remaining days in office to put in place sound policies that will aid struggling public schools.
The president’s voucher proposal is objectionable not only because it is unwise and unsound as a matter of education policy, but also because, by using taxpayer dollars to fund religious schools, the voucher program would subvert a founding principle of this nation — the separation of church and state. President Bush also mentioned in his address his wish to seek permanent extension of his administration's "Charitable Choice" and faith-based initiatives, illustrating yet again that he lacks regard for a constitutional principle that both protects the religious freedom of individuals and shields faith communities from government intrusion.