It’s hard to know where to start as I respond to the recent Press Herald opinion column (“Let’s let Maine parents decide how to spend on education,” Jan. 26) in support of vouchers to give parents school “choice.”

Joshua Citrano works on a word study assignment at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn. “I’m kind of a vocabulary nerd,” the fourth-grader said as he finished his assignment. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Promoters of vouchers, also referred to in this article as “education opportunity accounts,” like to use buzzwords such as “government-run” and “monopoly” to denigrate our schools.

Rep. Laurel Libby (Maine House District 90) and her co-author, Dylan Oliver of Young Americans for Liberty, also describe those who run Maine’s public schools as “politically motivated bureaucrats.” I think they need to do some homework; our public schools are run by a school board elected by local taxpayers. This is commonly referred to as local control.

Here are my responses to their arguments as to why we need vouchers in Maine.

“One size does not fit all.”

That is true. I am sure if you’ve had children in public school, you will have heard the word “differentiation.” That has been the mandate in the schools I have taught in for decades. We know one size doesn’t fit all. We accommodate children where they are in their learning: offering different lessons, providing reading and math tutors, special education, gifted and talented programs and more. Private schools have very limited remedial resources, if any. Home schooling is fine if that’s how you want to educate your children. Parents have been doing it for years and not expecting compensation.


“Test scores over the past three years have fallen significantly.”

That’s true. Of course the test scores have declined during the pandemic. There is so much wrong with these tests – which have changed three or four times in the past five or six years, making comparison almost impossible – but that is an issue for a separate commentary. However, if that is the statistic you are going to use, the most damning statistic is that studies done in four states show that the test scores of students who use vouchers to transfer to private schools go down.

“Low-income children can’t afford to move or attend private schools.”

That’s also true; however, voucher programs rarely cover a private school’s tuition and expenses, thereby potentially leading to schools based on economic class.

To my mind, here are the most important takeaways on this matter.

A student is not automatically accepted to a private school. It is up to the private school to decide whether or not the student is a “good fit,” e.g., doesn’t have learning disabilities or happen to be LGBTQ or not the right religion, and there is no existing mechanism for public oversight of discriminatory practices.


There is little to no oversight as to how the money is spent, creating a risk of fraud, particularly in virtual schools and homeschooling options.

Students’ scores drop when they transfer.

If an alternative schooling option does not work out, the family is on its own for that year once the money is accepted.

Providing students already in private schools with vouchers means offering a taxpayer gift to them. (In New Hampshire, the voucher program has ballooned in size, with vouchers going mostly to these families.)

I have faith that Maine legislators will see that these voucher programs are not a “good fit” for Maine’s school system.

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