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EDUCATION REPORT – July 11, 2002: School Vouchers - 2002-07-10

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

The United States Supreme Court has made an important decision about American education. Last month, the court ruled that poor parents can receive public money to send their children to private schools. These include religious schools.

Under this voucher program, the government helps parents send their children to schools that require payment. American public schools are free.

President Bush called the Supreme Court decision a great victory for American students and parents. He says it provides children from poor families an equal chance for a good education.

The American Constitution requires the separation of church and state.

Five of the nine Supreme Court judges ruled that an educational voucher program in Cleveland, Ohio, is constitutional. The majority decision said vouchers are acceptable because parents choose which school their child will attend. The government does not. The government provides only financial aid.

Parents in the Cleveland voucher program can receive up to about two-thousand dollars. Critics say this means that most families choose religious schools because they cost less than other private schools. Almost all of the children in the Cleveland voucher program attend religious schools.

The Ohio legislature enacted the voucher program in Cleveland after a federal court placed the city’s schools under state control. The court did so because the schools were not providing students with a good education.Supporters of school vouchers say the public school system is not helping millions of minority children in big cities. Many parents whose children attend poor quality schools support vouchers.

However, public school teachers and others oppose the voucher system. They say it is wrong to take needed government money from public schools. They believe public schools should be supported and improved.

Several other American cities have voucher programs. However, at least twenty-six state legislatures have rejected proposals for voucher programs. Voters in several states also have rejected the use of school vouchers. And recent opinion studies show that a majority of Americans approve of the nation’s public schools.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.