Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Say No to private school vouchers in Idaho

Recently, two economists from the Idaho Freedom Foundation published a document entitled “Myth-Education”, in which they sought to “debunk” negative “myths” about private school vouchers and k-12 education. What they did instead in the paper was to make the case against private school vouchers.

For example, in “Myth #1”, they argue that rural schools will actually benefit from private school vouchers–even though most rural communities do not have private schools.  Their explanation for this opinion is that there is increased availability of quality online choices. “Fortunately, access to online education programs and materials is improving,” they write. “Innovation is greatly expanding internet access for rural communities even though broadband access and internets speeds are still problems in some areas.”

While online instruction works for some students, and can be a helpful supplement to in-person instruction, numerous studies, including this one from the Rand Institute, indicate that quality teachers “matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.” Yet rural students should be limited to online instruction while private schoolers in Boise and Pocatello get quality in-person instruction? No thanks.

Remember the outcry from parents, students, and educators when they had to go to entirely online instruction in the spring of 2020? They detested it and often insisted (and still do) that face to face instruction is the model they want. Let’s listen to them rather than economists.

In “Myth #2” , they argue that public schools are not defunded when vouchers are implemented. In fact, they argue that “when the majority of students leave a school, that school could sell its building and consolidate with another school.”

These two have obviously never set foot in a public school, especially one in rural Idaho. They argue that rural public schools are not defunded by vouchers, then counter-argue with themselves that it wouldn’t be that bad and rural districts could sell their schools or consolidate with other districts. Unfortunately, their plan would destroy small Idaho districts and towns to benefit private school students in larger communities.

There is no interest in consolidation in rural areas, as the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction found out in 2011 when he proposed combining rural districts in several counties. The reaction was immediate and severe, and legislators representing rural areas demanded he cease the effort (he did).

Clearly, these “researchers” have never been to these towns or experienced their unique cultures and character. Nor do they care about rural Idaho. However, it’s important to remember that their boss, Wayne Hoffman,  characterized rural Idaho schools as nothing but “ball teams and mascots”, so maybe it’s not entirely their fault.

It’s really not necessary to analyze the remaining arguments made In “Myth-Education”(though research also shows that voucher programs provide little benefit to participants). Just know that their paper proves the point we have been making for months: Vouchers are harmful to public education and hurt rural schools and small towns.

Say No to private school vouchers in Idaho.



Don Coberly, Geoffry Thomas, Wil Overgaard, Teresa Fabricius

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