A school voucher, which is also commonly referred to as an opportunity scholarship, is a certificate that is funded by the government to pay for a child to attend private school. The overall school choice voucher system has been around in some states, like Vermont and Maine, for over 140 years, but was just recently enacted in others, like Florida, Washington, Utah and Indiana, within the past decade. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 14 states in the country have their version of a voucher program that targets either special needs, rural or low-income students. If you would like to learn more about the system and what vouchers pay for, read on.
What Do the Vouchers Pay For?
Currently the following states have a scholarship voucher program of some type: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Washington. If you live in one of the 14 states with a school choice program in place, you may be wondering just what the vouchers pay for and who funds these vouchers.
The legislatures in each state will decide what the vouchers pay for and who is eligible to apply, but, in a very general sense, the vouchers pay for a student to attend a private school instead of attending a public school. You can look at the voucher law comparison to see how each law differs.
How Much Will the Voucher Pay?
The purpose of the program is to give parents more choice as to where their kids go to school. These grants or scholarships are awarded by either the state government or the federal government, depending on the program, and will pay for tuition up to the maximum amount listed on the voucher. Some vouchers actually have a percentage maximum while others have a maximum dollar amount. Most will pay up to the amount that a public school would receive for a pupil’s attendance. If you have a special needs student, you may receive a higher award than those who qualify by being in a low-income bracket.
Advantages and Disadvantages of School Vouchers
There will always be proponents and opponents for any type of funded program that exists. The school choice program is a great program that allows parents to choose where their kids get their education so that they can perform at the highest level and increase chances of succeeding. Since private schools have higher academic standards and advanced curriculum, the program is said to help create the best environment for kids who could not otherwise attend a private school. Opponents believe that the program does not help with budgets and will not have a dramatic affect on performance in the long run. Opponents also point to research showing that the students who move to private school perform at the same level as they did before receiving the voucher.
While voucher programs are relatively new, more and more states are considering implementing similar programs. The offerings are typically for students in low performing schools, students with disabilities, students in military families, or students from low income families. You can visit your state legislature and learn more about the school vouchers or any other programs available in your area.
Related Resource: What are Charter Schools?