Bad presidents push bad policies, and bad policies yield bad results. A newly released federal study indicates Trump’s education plan could be the most disastrous policy of all.
The study, conducted by the Education Department over the course of a year, reveals that school vouchers, the cornerstone of Trump’s entire education plan, actually lead to worse student performance.
For the study, the Education Department looked at students enrolled in the country’s sole federal voucher program. In simple terms, the vouchers are government subsidies for parents to enroll their children in private schools. The new numbers should lead every rational person to conclude the initiative is a terrible idea:
The voucher students show on average a 7.3 percentile points decrease in math scores. Amongst voucher students from K-5th grade, there is also a marked decrease in reading abilities.
It’s important to note that these numbers were from just one year in the program. It seems highly likely that the gap between voucher and non-voucher students would continue to increase as more years passed.
The largest decrease in scores was noted in students coming from “good” public schools. Clearly, well-funded public schools work.
Even students who used the vouchers to leave the “worst” public schools – that is to say schools that are underfunded, overcrowded, or in dangerous areas – weren’t aided by the initiative. They are touted as the demographic in most need of vouchers, but such students saw no change in performance.
The release comes on the heel of several studies of state-sponsored voucher programs that damaged student performance.
As devastating as this study is, it still doesn’t cover all the problems with the ill-conceived voucher program that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is championing.
A long running Democratic criticism of vouchers is that the relatively small subsidies wouldn’t be enough to help lower income families cover the cost of private tuition. Since the voucher program is offered as an alternative to public education, poorer families would be forced to send their children to increasingly underfunded schools. It’s a vicious cycle the Republicans propose.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump wants to dumb our students down. An educated electorate is the biggest threat to his presidency.
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.