Voucher plans expose rift in school choice movement
By GEOFF MULVIHILL
For two decades, a loose-knit group that includes some of the country’s wealthiest people has underwritten the political push for school choice, promoting ballot initiatives and candidates who favor competition for traditional public schools.
But when a member of this elite group was elevated to education secretary, the appointment opened a philosophical schism that now threatens to shatter the alliance, turn billionaires against each other and possibly lead some school-choice advocates to join with teachers’ unions, their archenemies.
Fueling the split is the anticipation of a plan from President Donald Trump’s administration that could offer parents federal dollars to send their children to private schools, including religious and for-profit institutions.
“As much as we are aligned on change, we aren’t always aligned on how much change or how. Sometimes we fight,” said Derrell Bradford, executive vice president of the school-reform group 50CAN.
The movement has been cleaved into two camps: those who want to use choice to improve public schools and others, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who want to go further by allowing tax money to flow to private schools through vouchers, government-funded scholarships or corporate tax credits.
The differences that once seemed minor are at the heart of a potential seismic shift in the school-choice movement.
School-choice programs were first proposed in the 1950s by Nobel Prize-winning free-market economist Milton Friedman. Since the beginning of this century, they have grown quickly, although