New Report Co-Authored by PFPS Highlights Dangers School Vouchers Pose for Idaho

A new report by Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) and the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy (the Center) explains why Idaho policymakers must continue to reject proposals for private school vouchers and instead invest in the state’s underfunded public education system, which serves the vast majority of children.

Despite numerous attempts to establish voucher programs in the state, including a push for a universal education savings account (ESA) program during the 2023 legislative session, Idaho remains voucher-free. The Legislature will likely consider more proposals to enact vouchers in 2024, but the report makes clear that vouchers are an ineffective and harmful use of state revenue.

The report, entitled The Dangers of Private School Vouchers for Idaho Students, Schools, and Communities, addresses several of the myriad risks posed by voucher programs, including that:

  • Voucher costs can quickly balloon while investment in public education remains stagnant or decreases;
  • Vouchers harm rural communities and students in rural areas lack access to private schools;
  • Voucher programs can necessitate local tax increases, to make up for shortfalls vouchers cause in state funding for public schools.

The report also illustrates the essential educational resources that $360 million — the Center’s estimated annual cost of a universal voucher program— could buy for the state’s public schools. That money could completely fill existing gaps in teacher staffing or special education funding or pay for almost half of facilities repairs needed to bring public schools up to good condition.

“Idaho lawmakers have made significant investments in education to recover from budget cuts made during the Great Recession. School voucher programs redirect public funds from local school districts to private schools and threaten to undermine these key investments,” said May Roberts, Policy Analyst at the Center. “Enacting a voucher program in Idaho is likely to exacerbate public school funding shortfalls – hurting students, school districts, and communities as a result.”

“Idaho should invest in its public schools, which welcome and serve all students, rather than diverting funding to an unaccountable second system of private education,” said Nicole Ciullo, Research and Policy Associate at Education Law Center, which directs the PFPS campaign. “It is crucial that public funds are used to invest in evidence-based and cost-effective strategies that improve student outcomes. Research shows that vouchers do not.”

The new report can be used as one document or individual fact sheets.

Public Funds Public Schools is a national campaign directed by Education Law Center to ensure that public funds for education are used to support and strengthen public schools.

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy is a nonpartisan organization committed to offering Idahoans high-quality fiscal research and analysis.

To access additional PFPS tools for advocates, including reports, policy briefs, fact sheets, and an extensive series of webinars, visit the Advocacy webpage. Visit the Research webpage for studies showing the harms of private school voucher programs on students and public schools. Use the PFPS bill tracker to monitor voucher legislation.

Read Education Law Center’s annual Making the Grade report to learn more about the underfunding of Idaho’s public schools.

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