There are Vouchers and then there are Neo-Vouchers

What is a  Neo-Voucher?  According to Taxpayers For Public Education (TFPE) (http://www.taxpayersforpubliceducation.org/content/message-our-president):

“A neo voucher is any scheme by which the state – indirectly – diverts funds from its coffers or uses money that the state would otherwise collect in taxes, to subsidize private schools, non-profits and/or education service providers. These educational vouchers, often called “grants” or “scholarships” have limited or no accountability to taxpayers and are often given to organizations that discriminate against children and families.” 

An example of this kind of legislation is HB21-1006 Fifth Day School Week Supplemental Educational Programs, which is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee on Thursday, March 18 upon Adjournment.

http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2021A/bills/2021a_1006_01.pdf

 

Following is TFPE’s analysis of this bill:

 

HB 21-1006 Fifth-day School Enrichment Program FundingThe bill creates the fifth-day academic enrichment and support grant program (program) to award grants to one or more eligible community-based nonprofit organizations to provide supplemental educational programs to kindergarten through high school-aged children on the fifth day of the week for children in schools that have a 4-day school week. It is currently unknown from where the funding for the grants will come. 

Challenged by drastic underfunding, half of Colorado’s 174 school districts have been moved to a 4 day school week to save money. The funding for this bill is not stipulated.  This unfunded mandate is likely to further reduce public education funding.  School districts that have already been forced to go to a 4 day school week due to lack of funding will likely see their slim budgets reduced even further.  How many funding cuts can these school districts endure?  Wouldn’t it be better to spend precious tax dollars in our public schools?  Especially those that were forced to move to a 4 day school week?  Is a three-day school week the next step in the deterioration of public school funding?  

  • Acceptance of underfunded and inequitable funding of half of Colorado’s school districts. An entire generation of Colorado’s public school students have not had the benefit of a fully funded education. Any available funds for education should go to fund public schools, not outside organizations void of the rigorous checks and balances of public education.

  • Demographics of school districts on a 4 day schedule.  A Colorado Sun analysis of state education data found that school districts that have switched to four-day weeks typically have a higher number of impoverished students, based on the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The bulk of the districts on four-day weeks are in Colorado’s rural counties; places where the cost of living is lower and, most likely, so is spending per student.

  • Social justice. Further reduction of K-12 funding will be detrimental to the low income student population outlined in HB 21-1006.  Under the guise of enriching education, the bill will sacrifice the opportunity and equity of public education for programs that may or may not exist in rural communities.  And if they exist, will they offer more to the students than a wholly funded public education? The risks are too great.

 

For reference, from the Colorado School Finance Project, here’s a map showing Colorado School Districts on a Four Day Week   https://cosfp.org/wp-content/uploads/Four-Day-Week-Map-2020-21.pdf

 

In the 2020-2021 school year there are

95 of Colorado’s 178 school districts are on a 4 day week

15 districts have 1 or some schools on a 4 day week

Colorado Charter School Institute has some schools on a 4 day week

1 BOCES on a 4 day week

 

In the 2017-2018 school year 

79 of Colorado’s 178 school districts were on a 4 day week

6 districts had 1 school on a 4 day week

5 districts and the Colorado Charter School Institute had some schools on a 4 day week

1 BOCES on a 4 day week

 

Voucher proponents, over time, have proven to be very creative in how they write voucher legislation and present it to the public.   Circumstances created by a decade of lack of funding and dealing with a Global Pandemic have created even more opportunities to promote voucher based legislation. 

 

Here’s a link to the House Ed Committee with members’ contact info:

http://leg.colorado.gov/committees/education/2021-regular-session-0