Download and Listen
This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Education Report.
Some American children get a private education paid for with public money. School choice programs let parents move their child out of a failing public school. The parents can choose a private school and pay for it with a government payment "voucher".
It was 50 years ago when the economist Milton Friedman proposed a voucher system to improve American education. His work, the Role of Government in Education, appeared in the 1955 book Economics and the Public Interest.
Today about 36,000 students are served by vouchers. The programs are in the city of Washington DC and three of the 50 states - Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. The number of students will grow with 14,000 new vouchers just approved by lawmakers in Ohio. And Utah will offer a voucher program for disabled students.
A few states offer tax credits or other forms of support to help parents pay for private schools. One objection to vouchers has to do with the fact that most private schools are religious. The constitution separates government and religion. Voucher critics argue that the use of public money for religious schools is unconstitutional.
The United States Supreme Court has rejected this argument. In 2002 it ruled that the voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio was neutral toward religion. The Court said any tax money that went to the religious schools was the result of the individual decisions. Also the vouchers let parents choose other kinds of schools.
The Florida Supreme Court is now considering a similar case in that state. Opponents of vouchers say public schools should get more money so all children can attend good schools near their homes. Yet, some people think all family should be offered vouchers, not just poor ones.
Milton Friedman and his wife started the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation to work for school choice. It says the goal is to improve, through competition, the quality of education for all. Milton Friedman had his 93rd birthday on Sunday. The Nobel Prize winning economist has been talking to reporters about his 50th anniversary of his proposal. Mr Friedman told Education Week that he thinks 50 years from now, all students will be served by school vouchers.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbagh. Our reports are all on the web at voaspecialenglish.com.
public money: 公款