During the 2023 Legislative session, the ND House introduced HB1532 which aimed to give $10 million dollars in public money to private schools with no strings attached.
The bill was a dangerous threat to public schools, rural communities, and services that depend on public funding. ND United members sent over 57,000 emails to Senators and Representatives on this issue, which successfully flipped votes of legislators like Representative Anna Novak of Hazen, who cited a member email as the reason she switched to opposing HB 1532.
The final version of the bill narrowly passed the House by three votes and was sent to Governor Burgum, who vetoed HB 1532 after receiving almost 900 emails from ND United members urging him to do so. The House then sustained the veto and HB 1532 was finally defeated.
It was clear however, that attacks on public education in North Dakota and voucher schemes in the state will be present in future legislative sessions.
While we have always supported school choice, we also believe that we must keep public dollars in public schools so that teachers and students receive the resources they need.
Frequently Asked Questions About Voucher Schemes
What is a "Voucher"?
Private school vouchers take many names, including “scholarship” programs, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and portability plans. Regardless of what they are called, they use public dollars to fund private schools and divert scarce resources away from the public education system that serves 93% of North Dakota children.
How Does Student Achievement in Private Schools Compare With Public Schools?
Repeated studies of voucher programs across the country show that vouchers do not result in better test scores for students, and, in many states, have led to declines in academic achievement.
- In Washington DC, students who had been offered a voucher to attend a private school scored lower in both math and reading, in comparison to their peers who stayed in public school.
- A voucher study in Louisiana found on average, participating voucher students’ performance in both reading and math dropped for three consecutive years. The Louisiana findings are significant and show declines that are the equivalent of the average math student at the 50th percentile—dropping to the 34th percentile after three years of participation in the Louisiana voucher program.
- Researchers have studied vouchers in Ohio, as well. Comparing scores on the Ohio state assessment for voucher students against public school students found large negative effects for mathematics and for reading among the voucher students. Students using vouchers experience academic losses that are far larger than the academic gains experienced by students not using vouchers.
- In Indiana, researchers found that students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools were more likely to score less well in math, and were about the same in reading.
Are There Implications for North Dakota Taxpayers?
Private school vouchers do not save taxpayer money and have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases.
In voucher programs, the public schools from which students leave for private voucher schools are spread throughout a school district. The reduction in a few students from each public school, therefore, does not decrease operating costs like building maintenance and transportation. But it does decrease the amount of money the public school has to spend. That is one of the reasons why some voucher programs have resulted in multi-million dollar deficits and tax increases.
How Do Vouchers Affect Rural Schools?
Rural schools across North Dakota have to fight tooth and nail to secure funding. Residents of these rural communities across North Dakota don't have access to private schools. In fact, only 32% of North Dakota counties have access to a private school. Essentially, wealthier families in large North Dakota cities like Fargo, Bismarck, and Grand Forks, are asking rural North Dakotans to foot the bill to send their city kids to private schools. It directly sucks funding out of community schools across North Dakota that are already underfunded.
What About School Choice?
Private school vouchers do not offer real choice. Parents may want to send their child to a private school, but private schools in North Dakota get the choice of which students they accept. They openly reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability to socioeconomic status. And even with vouchers, most North Dakota parents still cannot afford the full cost of attending a private school.