Educational vouchers, also known as scholarships, redirect the flow of education funding, channeling it directly to individual families rather than to school districts. This allows families to select the public or private schools of their choice and have all or part of the tuition paid. These vouchers are funded by either public (government) or private (corporations, foundations) funds. Scholarships are advocated on the grounds that parental choice and competition between public and private schools will improve education for all children (www.schoolchoices.org).
Publicly-funded education vouchers allow families to make private decisions regarding how public taxpayer money should be spent. Therefore, a voucher program hopes to create an educational market where schools must compete for students. Supporters claim market benefits, such as choice and innovation, will improve education. Opponents, on the other hand, say that vouchers will lead to greater inequality and the loss of civic preparation. Current evidence concerning the impact of vouchers is disputed (IBID.).
The Zelman versus Simmons-Harris court case that ended on June 22, 2002, is probably one of the most monumental court cases to date on this subject. The United States Supreme Court upheld a Cleveland, Ohio school voucher program by a 5-4 vote. Judges Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas were for the decision (www.law.umkc.edu). This case was the latest in a long series of Supreme Court decisions that eroded constitutional requirements for school voucher programs.
In order to comply with these constitutional requirements, a constitutional voucher program must take many actions. The program must be completely neutral with respect to religion. If parents choose to use vouchers at religious schools, they must do so wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choices. The voucher program must not give parents any incentives to pick religious schools over non-religious schools. The program must provide parents genuine, practical, legitimate secular options, including adequate traditional public schools, adequate non-traditional public schools such as community and magnet schools, and adequate private non-religious schools. The purpose of the program must be to advance secular education, not to funnel state funds to religious schools (www.au.org).
Many people believe that there are many advantages to publicly-funded vouchers. One of these benefits is increased choice for schools. A tuition certificate, especially for low-income families, helps parents afford to choose a school suited to their child's needs. This way, the child is guaranteed a decent education, no matter what his family background is. Greater competition is another one of the program's advantages. As families gain the ability to choose the school their child attends, schools may have to improve to attract students. This would be very beneficial to the students in question. Another advantage is targeted assistance. School vouchers can be aimed at a particular struggling student population and offer assistance without changing the entire public education system. This is very beneficial to the child because his individual needs are attended to without reshaping the entire system in order to fit one individual need. More...