Conservatives Can’t Vouch for Vouchers, But They Will Mislead

The propaganda machine supporting school vouchers, headquartered in the office of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, is determined not to let the facts get in the way of conservative ideological spin.

The press release for a report released Monday on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program—a masterfully euphemistic name for a program that uses public funds to pay for private school education—is headlined: “Report Reaffirms Academic Gains for D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Participants.”

The report
actually says this:

After 2 years, there was no statistically significant difference in test scores in general between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship. Overall, those in the treatment and control groups were performing at comparable levels in mathematics and reading.

The mean scores for D.C. Opportunity Scholarship students were a whole three points higher than the mean scores of students outside the program in reading (621.30 vs. 618.12). They were virtually identical in mathematics (614.09 vs. 613.85).

In fact, it is difficult to find anything in the actual report that would justify the claim that the 1,900 students in this voucher program—which the administration is seeking $18 million to continue—are better off than they would be if those same dollars—as well as the same parental engagement and other factors of school success—were invested in the public schools that these students would otherwise attend. (This is one reason D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has been a longtime opponent of the voucher program and, The Washington Post reports, is pressing to have it phased out.)

Yet, Spellings issues a statement that runs contrary to the Bush administration’s constant drumbeat of insisting that government programs that don’t measure up get the ax:

“While [the report] reflects the reality that this program is still in its early stages, this report also tells me that no one in a position of responsibility can sever this lifeline right now and leave these kids adrift in schools that are not measuring up-not when they have chosen to create a better future for themselves.”

Ideology trumps results. So does the twisted logic that says there are only two choices—allow the right to outsource public education to private interests that have little or no public accountability, or “set kids adrift in schools that are not measuring up.”

What about a real partnership between federal officials and local communities to actually improve the public schools—backed by the resources actually needed to do the job? That was the promise of the No Child Left Behind law that has been badly broken by the Bush administration and conservatives in Congress.

There is an alternative policy approach to the false promise of school vouchers. Learn more about it at and show your support for educational reform that would actually make a difference for our children.


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