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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 12:38 GMT
School voucher schemes rejected

The "No Vouchers" campaigns were successful
Campaigns to create the largest ever school vouchers schemes have been heavily rejected by voters in the United States.

Ballots in California and Michigan have resulted in defeats for proposals that would have meant a radical reform of pupil funding and the expansion of the involvement of the private sector in state education.

US education ballot results
California rejected vouchers
Michigan rejected vouchers
Arizona approves end of bi-lingual education
Oregon rejects linking teachers' pay to pupil achievement

The proposal to give parents in California a voucher worth $4,000 to spend on the education of each of the six million children in the state was heavily defeated in a ballot - by an estimated 70% to 30%.

Opponents of the scheme, which included the state governor and teachers' unions, had forecast that vouchers would have meant the state school system losing $3bn a year.

Parents would have been allowed to spend the money from state funds on private education - and the voucher system had been presented as a way of helping families "rescue" their children from failing inner-city schools.

Education 'free market'

But opponents had argued that the voucher scheme would advantage the middle classes which already used private schools and would be at the expense of an already struggling state school system.

Campaigns for and against the voucher scheme raised $45m for television, radio and online advertising, with both sides claiming to represent the best interest of parents.

A more limited voucher scheme in Michigan, in which vouchers would be available for pupils in failing schools, was also rejected by a wide margin, estimated at 70% to 30%.

School vouchers, which are intended to create a more open "market" in education, have become a favoured policy of the right, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

The vouchers enable parents to act as consumers, allowed to "spend" their children's entitlement to funding wherever they believe they will get the best education.

In the scheme proposed in California, this would have allowed vouchers to be spent in private as well as state schools - which opponents argued would have meant large amounts of state money being channelled into institutions over which they had no control.

In the United Kingdom, nursery school vouchers, introduced by the Conservative government, were scrapped by the incoming Labour government in 1997.

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See also:

27 Jul 00 | Education
Vote on biggest voucher plan
09 Oct 00 | Education
Stakes rising in voucher ballot
03 Sep 00 | Education
Voucher system aids black pupils
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