As Trump and DeVos Push for Private School Choice, Opponents Highlight Vouchers’ Racist Past

In Education, States On

Today, school vouchers—giving students public money to use toward tuition at private schools—are often reserved for needy students: those with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

But vouchers were once deployed during the Jim Crow era to perpetuate segregated school systems post Brown v. Board of Education as detailed in a new policy brief from the Center for American Progress, a progressive public-policy research and advocacy organization.

Understanding how private school vouchers contributed to racial segregation in the nation’s schools is crucial, argue the report’s authors, as the Trump administration and the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos push for expanding voucher programs.

How Were Vouchers Used to Segregate Schools?

The report highlights a case in Prince Edward County, Va., during the late 1950s and early ’60s when public officials effectively cut off funding for public schools, forcing them to close. Under a new school voucher system, white families could use public money to send their children to all-white private schools. (A later Supreme Court ruling made it illegal for private schools to discriminate based on race and keep their tax-exempt status.)

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