Betsy DeVos wants $5 billion, Should we Oblige?

Betsy DeVos just proposed a $5 billion school choice proposal, asking the Congress for a national tax credit scholarship program that would allow parents to send their children to a private K-12 school of their choice. What are the particulars? She does not use the word “voucher” (likely because voters keep turning back the approach), but instead uses “education savings accounts.” Essentially, the tax dollars are redirected into “scholarship” US News describes this launderific approach,

Individual donors would be able to contribute up to 10 percent of their adjusted gross income to a scholarship-granting organization approved by a state, and businesses would be able to contribute up to 5 percent of their net taxable income.

It’s already a switcheroo that is being used at the state level. The financial malfeasance associated with Arizona and Florida’s “education scholarship accounts” has been notorious. The Chattanoogan reports,

Fraud, accountability and transparency have been persistent negative problems associated with the implementation of ESA programs. As reported in the Arizona Republic, an October 2018 audit by the Arizona Attorney General found that more than $700,000 was misspent on any number unrelated items such as beauty supplies, sports apparel, computer technical needs, and unwarranted spending outside of the needs of students. Fraud has grown so rampant in Florida that for the last two years the Orlando Sentinel has run a series entitled, Schools Without Rules, where they have documented the effects of unlicensed and untrained educators, mismanagement of funds, failure to pay teachers and pecuniary expenses, and inadequate services provided to special needs students along with a wide assortment of unmet and unfulfilled assurances.

Furthermore, Michelman summarizes the lack of student success associated with vouchers and ESAs. While Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos, William J. Mathis, and Kevin G. Welner discuss the problematic legal implications.

To be frank, Betsy’s proposal is likely DOA in the US House and even perhaps the US Senate. US News posits,

…the proposal faces a steep uphill battle in Congress, where Democrats now control the House of Representatives and even the more moderate Republicans in the Senate, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have been wary of school choice policies that originate at the federal level.

I had the chance to talk with NPR’s Marketplace about the proposal for 20 minutes last week. Here is the 2-minute program where they probably used the least interesting 5 seconds of our conversation (just being honest).

DeVos is up to exactly what everyone said she would be up to, in fact, Trump promised $20 billion for school choice during his campaign.

Here’s a summary of my work on vouchers.

Peer-Reviewed articles

Portales, J., & Vasquez Heilig, J. (2015). Understanding universal vouchers and urban public schools in Santiago de Chile: Educational administrators’ responses to choice. Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 5(2), 194-237.*

Portales, J. & Vasquez-Heilig, J. (2014). Understanding how universal vouchers have impacted urban school districts’ enrollment in Chile. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22(68). Retrieved from*

Policy Briefs

Vasquez Heilig, J., LeClair, A.V., Lemke, M., & McMurrey, A. (2014). Remarkable or poppycock?: Lessons from school voucher research and data. Austin, TX: Texas Center for Education Policy, University of Texas at Austin.

Vasquez Heilig, J. & Portales. (2012). Are vouchers a panacea?: Data from international implementation. Austin, TX: The Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis, University of Texas at Austin.

Articles in The Progressive Magazine

What You Should Know about School Vouchers

Eight Questions Betsy DeVos Won’t Get Right about School Vouchers

Cloaking Inequity blog posts

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

Click here for Vitae.





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