Ocean City Today

Opposes school vouchers

Readers' Forum
Jun 22, 2017



printed 06/23/2017



In January, H.R. 610, the Choices in Education Act was introduced and co-sponsored by our Worcester County Representative Andy Harris.

H.R. 610 eliminates the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, thus allowing Federal funds that are now given to public schools be given in the form of vouchers to parents who choose to enroll their children in private schools, charter schools or to home school their children.

In Worcester County, those parents who choose to enroll their children in alternative schools, would receive a voucher worth approximately $1,943. Those monies could then be applied to their new private school tuition bill. (Private school tuition in this area generally runs more than $30,000 per year.) Unfortunately, $1,943 may only be a drop in the bucket when it comes to private school tuitions but it does help to contribute to the need of many parents who desire an alternative choice to the public school system.

When a child leaves the public school system under this proposed voucher system, what exactly is the impact on Worcester County? Unbeknown to most of us, it is not just a loss $1,943 per student.  Worcester County receives $17,606 for each student enrolled in the public school system: 76 percent of those monies come from the county, 18 percent from the state of Maryland, and 5 percent from the Federal government.

For each Worcester County student that uses the voucher, Worcester County School System loses the full $17,606. Clearly, it would not take too many students leaving the public school system to create both a devastating and detrimental loss to our school system itself.

The voucher system may reduce the number of students that Worcester County would be responsible for educating, but, unfortunately, it will not reduce or offset any of the annual fixed costs needed to run a public school system.

For example, when my children went off to college, we paid for their tuition, as well as their room and board. Our fixed costs at home though, such as mortgage, car payment, insurance, etc. did not decrease just because they moved out of our home. Admittedly, the food bill went down slightly and the home phone rang less but all the other costs remained the same.

With 43 percent of the households in Worcester County at or below the poverty level it is unlikely that these households will be able to participate in such a “school choice” program.

The legislative director of the Maryland State Education Association, Sean Johnson, found that 78 percent of the students that participated in a Maryland state funded program that granted monies to help defray tuition costs were already in private schools. According to Mr. Johnson these programs “merely subsidize private schools with taxpayer dollars that could be going to public schools.”

I am urging all residents of Maryland to contact your Senators, our Governor and, especially, Representative Andy Harris to let them know you want them to protect our public schools by fighting against any attempt to defund our public schools. Maybe we need new choices but this bill doesn’t appear to provide the solution. Tell them to vote ‘no’ to H.R. 610.

Constance Wolf Hughes, DDS


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