Category: Newsworthy


Opinion – The Supreme Court just let a church use public funds to fix its playground. Will this shift public education’s terrain?

Here’s why the ruling in favor of Trinity Lutheran may not be a green light for vouchers


June 27, 2017


When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in 2016 to hear arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, school voucher advocates saw an opportunity.

The case actually revolved around the specific question of whether the state of Missouri could refuse a grant to resurface a playground to a church solely due to the fact that the church is a religious institution.

But a broad enough ruling in favor of the church could dismantle so-called “no aid” provisions that states have enacted to ensure that state resources for public schools were not diverted to private religious institutions. This was the invitation voucher proponents made to the nine justices.

On Monday, the court turned down the offer.

In a 7-2 ruling, the justices ruled that while Missouri could not refuse a playground grant to a church solely due to the fact that the church is a religious institution, the court was not “address[ing] religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.” In other words, the ruling was not a green light for school vouchers.

Educators and parents across the country should applaud the court’s refusal to place in doubt decades of precedents enforcing state constitutional protections of our public schools.


“Improving public schools requires more money, not less, and public money should only be used to help public schools.”

It doesn’t matter how their backers try to disguise them — “education savings accounts,” “tuition tax credits,” “opportunity scholarships” — vouchers are a destructive and misguided program that take scarce funding away from public schools, where 90 percent of America’s students attend, and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public.

Unlike public schools, private schools have almost complete autonomy with regard to how they operate: who they teach, what they teach, how they teach, how — if at all — they measure student achievement, how they manage their finances, and what they are required to disclose to parents and the public.

While there are no data to support the claim that voucher programs increase the opportunities for low-income children to attend higher-performing schools, there is considerable evidence that voucher programs increase the “opportunity” for more affluent families to receive public subsidies for private education.

In Indiana, the largest voucher program in the nation has morphed into an entitlement program which, in large part, does nothing to close the achievement gaps for low income students — a false promise lobbyists claimed it would do if enacted. In fact, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended public schools, so Indiana taxpayers are subsidizing private school education for many students whose families could already afford it.Top of Form Bottom of Form

This slow but steady expansion of voucher programs is being duplicated elsewhere. It’s become a familiar story; voucher bills are rebranded and targeted towards specific populations — low-income students or students with special needs, for example — to make them more politically palatable.

Once the legislation is implemented, eligibility requirements are soon eased, and funding is increased. Meanwhile, funding for public schools is further eroded, leaving students with less of what they need to succeed.

Shifting massive amounts of valuable (and limited!) taxpayer money away from public schools to pay for private school vouchers is the cornerstone of the Trump-DeVos budget, which slashes the federal investment in public education programs by a whopping 13.6 percent, while providing $1.4 billion in spending on voucher-type programs — a costly seal of approval of a scheme that has experimented with our children’s education without any evidence of real, lasting positive results.

The best option for our students has and always will be strong, well-funded schools in their own neighborhoods.  Improving public schools requires more money, not less, and public money should only be used to help public schools.


Lily Eskelsen García is president of the National Education Association, a labor union representing three million educators. She is also the 1989 Utah Teacher of the Year. She tweets at @Lily_NEA and blogs at



PA Lawmakers Approve State Budget; Need Revenue Package to Fund It

The 2017-18 budget agreement includes key public school spending priorities, including: A $100 million increase in basic education funding A $25 million increase in special education funding A $30 million...


DeVos (again) shows her agenda puts students at the end of the line

by Félix Pérez It’s been more than two weeks since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ widely panned appearance before a U.S. House committee in which she sought to defend President Trump’s...


Ravitch: Why is PBS running this education documentary?

If you go to the website of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington that believes in privatizing the public education system, you will learn about a three-part documentary called...


DeVos’ First 100 Days Marred By Rollbacks, Missteps And Blunders

US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has insulted educators, rolled back student protections, threatened to take scarce money from public schools for private school vouchers, and all too often lived up to...


How bringing comics into the classroom made me love teaching again

By Tim Smyth, Wissahickon HS    Most teachers would agree that teaching is one of the most exhausting jobs to love. Between meeting the individual needs of our students, keeping up with the latest...


U.S. News & World Report Ranks One-Third of CAPS’ Schools Among Top 50 in State

Sixteen public high schools in Bucks and Montgomery counties were ranked among the best 50 high schools in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools Rankings released...

Charter SchoolsNewsworthy

America’s Charter Schools Have A Commitment Problem

Just google “charter school closes unexpectedly” and watch the stories pile up. It happened again. This time in Milwaukee. Students at the Universal Academy for the College Bound Webster...


Vouchers do not improve student achievement, Stanford researcher finds

Education professor Martin Carnoy analyzed 25 years of research and found that voucher programs do not significantly improve test scores. Carnoy says vouchers distract from proven policies and programs...


Despite what DeVos wants you to believe, research shows public schools outperform private schools

As the nation’s new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, promotes the flawed idea that taxpayer dollars should be spent to pay for private school tuition, research proves she, along with many others, is...