School vouchers buried in budget are a bad idea

To the Editor: I agree with Mary Wilke’s June 7 op-ed that the state budget bill’s school voucher proposal is a fundamentally bad and unfair idea. That’s reason enough to delete it from the budget. But there are more problems with this program, even though it is likely to be popular with families at the upper end of the eligibility cutoff (up to 300% the federal poverty level, which is about $80,000 for a family of five and much more for larger families).

This entitlement program is misleadingly titled “Education Freedom Accounts” even though families are not granted savings accounts. The money goes back to the state after a child leaves the program. It can be spent on almost anything which can be called “education” and there is little or no outside oversight.

The program will be administered by a “scholarship organization” chosen by the Department of Revenue Administration. The two incumbent organizations have just one employee between the two of them and are effectively a single organization. They have managed to give away less than half the tax credits granted to them by a small program that has been around since 2012. These one or two small organizations cannot be trusted to administer a complicated and wide-ranging multi-million dollar entitlement program with little or no oversight from the state Department of Education or anyone else.

And, oh yeah, the scholarship organization(s) would get a total liability waiver: theoretically they can’t be sued if anything goes wrong.