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Vouchers are not best bet for Minnesota schools

  • Article by: TOM DOOHER
  • February 7, 2013 - 7:25 PM

When even an advocate of private-school choice has to admit there is no convincing evidence that vouchers produce better student achievement ("Minnesota falls behind on school choice," Jan. 28) it raises the question: How is Minnesota missing the boat?

In fact, the preponderance of impartial research shows that vouchers are not a good deal for students or taxpayers. Meanwhile, Minnesota has been recognized for its array of public-school choices. Our state has wisely chosen not to divert scarce tax dollars to private schools, but to invest in public-school programs open to all.

This year, many of our state's leaders have come to recognize that early learning is the best investment we can make. Gov. Mark Dayton and a number of lawmakers are promoting an expansion of all-day kindergarten and preschool programs.

Education Minnesota strongly supports free all-day kindergarten for every Minnesota child, with additional investment in pre-K programs as money becomes available.

Early childhood programs have high rates of return on investment, but they are not cheap. Dayton's $130 million kindergarten and early childhood budget only begins to cover the cost. Wisconsin's voucher program cost $150 million last year, and lawmakers want to expand it.

Such expenditures in Minnesota would make it that much harder to fund the expansion of all-day kindergarten, early childhood and other public-school programs that actually improve academic achievement.

Most of Minnesota's students are, and will continue to be, in public K-12 schools. Minnesota doesn't need an expensive private-school choice program that benefits relatively few.

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Tom Dooher is president of Education Minnesota, a union of 70,000 Minnesota educators.

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