I thought this had been settled but it seems that W and the District of Columbia’s alternate city council/school board (aka Congress) are still arguing about the DC school voucher plan embedded in the omnibus* spending bill. Under this bill at least 1700 students would receive up to $7500 to pay for tuition at a private school (but not a charter) as an alternative to their local public school.
I’ve ranted about this particular pilot program several times before (here and here for example) and, while I am not a fan of voucher programs, I would love to see a valid test of the concept. This one may or may not be that test. As with many bills that Congress unleashes, it is underfunded by at least half and is often very vague in it’s requirements and especially in the evaluation componenet.
By "valid test" I mean one in which there is a fair and accurate comparison of the students who move to the private schools with students who remain in the public schools. The rules should not require private schools to only hire certified teachers as some opponents of vouchers want, since we want to test one of the fundamental concepts, that private schools as they now exist will do a better job. At the same time, both groups of students must be given the same standardized tests if we’re going to have a statistically valid experiment (and this is an experiment).
Finally, I come back to another bottom line. Many supporters of voucher programs insist that the competition fostered by students being able to take the money and move will improve public schools as well. That’s another factor which must be evaluated if this will truly be a fair and accurate test of the voucher concept.
*An “ominbus” bill is one containing all kids of crap that members of Congress don’t have the guts to go on the record as having voted for or against.