This study demonstrates that the DC voucher program is flawed: it continues to primarily fund religious education, does not help students in failing schools, and does not serve students in the poorest of DC’s communities.
Most Students Use Vouchers to Attend Religious Schools – A significant majority of the private schools participating in the DC voucher program are religious, which threatens fundamental principles of church state separation: “A higher share of participating schools than non-participating private schools is religiously affiliated (64 percent versus 29 percent).” When that data is weighted by the number of students served in each school, the religiously-affiliated schools rise to 81% of all voucher schools.
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at 10, 29, Appendix C.
Most Vouchers Do Not Cover the Cost of Private School Tuition – Sixty-eight percent of high schools and 62% of K-8 schools charged tuition rates above those of the cap on each student’s voucher. As a result, the voucher program can ultimately only help those students whose families have the means of covering extra costs of tuition and fees associated with private school education.
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at 9.
Vouchers Do Not Help Kids Most in Need – If the program’s true goal is to lift up kids in poverty and provide them greater educational opportunities, it fails to do so. Although 69% of students who applied for the DC vouchers lived in wards 1, 5, 7, and 8 (the least affluent areas of the city), only 40% of DC voucher schools are located there. Thirty of the fifty-three voucher schools were located in the four most affluent wards. Many voucher students in DC do not come from a public school labelled as being “in need of improvement” but come from other public or even private schools. And, “[s]tudents were less likely to enroll in a private school with an OSP scholarship if their parents were unemployed or not working full time.”
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at at 11, 18, and 21.
DC Voucher Schools Educate Fewer Minority Students than Public Schools – Participating voucher schools have a higher percentage of white students – 35% as opposed to public schools with only 6%.
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at at 11.
Almost 30% of the Students Granted a Voucher Don’t Actually Use It - Only 7 in 10 students who receive a voucher use it the following year to enroll in a private school. The study found that students from particular demographics were even less likely to use a voucher: just over half (51 percent) of high school students awarded a voucher used it the next year, and only 63% of students from "schools in need of improvement" (the target students for the program) who recieved a voucher used it the next year.
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at at 19, 21.
Most Families Don’t Actually Want to Use Vouchers - Only 3-4% of all eligible voucher students in DC applied from 2011-2013.
Source: 2014 Dep't of Ed. Report at at 14.