In recent weeks, the issue of private school vouchers has taken center stage in debates over the future of American education. Policy proposals to use public funds for private school tuition vouchers have a long history, dating back to a seminal 1955 essay by Milton Friedman. Over the last twenty-five years, small voucher programs have been established in several states, including Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as in Washington, D.C.
But the voucher issue took on a new urgency after the election of Donald Trump, given his campaign promise to establish a $20 billion national voucher program. When Trump unveiled his first proposed budget earlier this year, he partnered his program with massive cuts to existing federal education programs, taken largely from funding streams that support the education of students living in poverty. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of education, is a long-time partisan of vouchers and has been cheerleader in chief for Trump’s education budget cuts and proposed voucher program.