Research News

UW’s Underwood looks at why, 'Vouchers multiply even without public support'

September 25, 2015

UW-Madison’s Julie Underwood recently wrote an article for Kappan Magazine that’s headlined, “Vouchers multiply even without public support: More states allow public funding for students to attend private and religious schools, but are these plans in line with state constitutional provisions?”

Writes underwood: “Public funding of private K-12 schooling through vouchers continues to be a contentious issue across the U.S. Those in favor of vouchers argue that they improve educational programs by supporting competition in the system, offering students the option of attending participating private schools at state expense. Those opposed argue that this funds individuals’ private decisions to the detriment of the public school system (and public school students) and encourages segregated institutions."

Julie Underwood
She continues:  "While a solid majority of Americans continues to oppose vouchers — 57 percent in this year’s PDK/Gallup poll, 63 percent and 70 percent in the two prior years, respectively — we have nonetheless seen a rapid growth in the number of proposals in state legislatures over the past few years. (There has been a rapid increase in tax credit and education savings account programs as well, but we’ll leave those for another day.)”

Underwood goes on to note that the "first publicly funded voucher program was passed in 1990 in Wisconsin. In 2011, 42 states considered vouchers or state tax credits, with four states — Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, and Wisconsin — enacting new voucher programs. Florida enacted a voucher program in 1999, Utah in 2005, and Oklahoma in 2010. In 2013, new voucher programs were enacted in three states — Mississippi, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In 2015, so far Indiana and Wisconsin have expanded their voucher programs.”

Underwood is a professor of education and law, and is the former dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education.

To learn more about this hot-button topic -- including legal challenges and how most voucher schools educate considerably fewer special education students than public schools -- make sure and check out Underwood’s entire article for free on the Kappan Magazine website.