The voucher concept has been controversial, and critics have voiced concerns that such programs, if broadly applied, ultimately could destroy the American public-school system. The issue of the constitutionality of taxpayer-financed vouchers was sidestepped at the federal level in 1998 when the Supreme Court chose not to review a state court ruling that upheld the use of vouchers in Milwaukee. In 1999, however, a federal court held that when a voucher system used in Ohio resulted in almost all recipients attending religious instead of public schools the system violated the Constitution, but in 2002 the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the program provided
true private choice. Meanwhile, in Florida a program was initiated (1999) in which vouchers, good at private religious and nonreligious schools, were given to children whose public schools had failed standardized tests, but the program has been challenged in the state courts. By the end of the 20th cent. various kinds of voucher programs were being implemented in 31 U.S. states and were utilized by nearly 65,000 students. There is no incontrovertible evidence that the use of vouchers has improved the education of students using them, either at private or public schools, but often it also is not clear whether poor educational results are in fact the fault of the schools or the result of other causes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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