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Bernie Sanders Report: Billionaire-Backed Campaign to ‘Sabotage’ Public Schools

By Jake Beardslee · June 26, 2024

A new report released by Senator Bernie Sanders and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions paints a stark picture of the rapid expansion of private school voucher programs across the United States. The report, titled "By the Wealthy, for the Wealthy: The Coordinated Attacks on Public Education in the United States," argues that these programs are draining resources from public schools while primarily benefiting wealthy families.  Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

According to the report, an unprecedented number of states have expanded their private school voucher programs in the last three years, with some offering universal access for the first time. This expansion, the report argues, is part of a coordinated effort by wealthy conservative donors and Republican-led state legislatures to divert public funds to private education.  MChe Lee / Unsplash

“Over the past decade, there has been a coordinated effort on the part of right-wing billionaires to undermine, dismantle and sabotage our nation’s public schools and to privatize our education system,” Sanders stated in a press release.  Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

"Make no mistake; Republican's efforts to villify educators, ban books, and censor what is taught in the classroom are blatant attempts to erode trust in the nation's public schools and justify diverting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars away from public education," Senator Sanders writes in the report.  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the most striking findings is the ballooning costs of these programs. In Arizona, for example, the universal voucher program is now estimated to cost 983% more than initially projected. Florida's program has exceeded initial cost estimates by 380%. These skyrocketing expenses are putting significant strain on state budgets and, by extension, funding for public schools.
The report challenges the notion that these voucher programs primarily benefit low-income students seeking better educational opportunities. Data from several states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, and Iowa, shows that between 65% and 95% of voucher recipients were already attending private schools before receiving public funding.  Redd F / Unsplash

The expansion of voucher programs is creating two separate education systems - public and private - which the report argues is "neither equitable nor fiscally sustainable." Private schools receiving voucher funds are not subject to the same accountability, non-discrimination, and transparency requirements as public schools. This raises concerns about potential discrimination and the re-segregation of schools, as private institutions can selectively admit students.  Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Senator Sanders proposes several alternatives to voucher programs, advocating for increased investment in public education. His suggestions include strengthening early childhood education, addressing teacher shortages through better pay and support, expanding community schools, and making college free for all.  John Meore/The Journal News / USA TODAY NETWORK

"As the richest country in history, the United States should have the best education system in the world," Sanders states in the report. "Our public education system is not perfect—it is underfunded and racially and socioeconomically segregated. Our educators are not respected or paid nearly what they deserve."  Jack Gruber / USA TODAY NETWORK

The report is likely to fuel ongoing debates about education funding and school choice in the United States. As more states consider expanding their voucher programs, policymakers will need to grapple with the fiscal implications and potential impacts on educational equity demonstrated in this Senate committee report.  Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 / Unsplash