Phi Beta Cons

When is a voucher not a voucher?

Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation offers a telling quiz for people interested in education policy:  When is a tuition scholarship not considered a voucher?  Answer:  When the scholarship is for higher education, rather than for K-12 education.

A top priority for the new Democratic majority this spring will be expanding the popular Pell Grant program, which is essentially voucher program for higher education:

Under the program, students who meet certain income requirements can receive a scholarship to help pay college tuition. The scholarship is redeemable at one of 5,400 postsecondary institutions. In all, federal taxpayers spend more than $13 billion on Pell grants.

Other higher-education voucher programs include the G.I. Bill, Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits, all of which are championed by Democrats.  These programs work just like school vouchers for K-12 education, which a majority of Democrats oppose.  But why support higher-education vouchers and oppose K-12 opportunities?  Lips calls for a change:

If Democrats are really concerned about equal opportunity and educational access, they should end this bizarre bias against choice for those under 18 and support programs that make it easier for all parents to control where their children go to school.

This is important because increasing funding for Pell grants and other higher education subsidies will not address the main source of educational inequality in America. College Pell grants don’t help the 50 percent of high school students in some of our biggest cities who drop out before graduation. Pell grants won’t help the nearly half of low-income 8th graders who are can’t read. Millions of disadvantaged children currently struggling in America’s public schools will never graduate from high school, let alone consider college.


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