As many as 10 percent of Minnesota’s schoolchildren could be up for grabs — more than $1 billion worth — if the state Supreme Court rules in a case involving a statewide voucher program.

Minnesota was considering a program that gives families up to $3,600 a year to send their children to private school if the parents desire to send them out of their state. That program, known as Investing in Excellence in Minnesota (IIEM), was instituted in 2013. A group of parents challenged the law, and they won the challenge, which means that about 6,000 families who get an annual voucher could lose it. A handful of schools, like Dr. James and Susan Shepherd’s Jewish Community School of the Twin Cities, are estimated to lose the entire amount of their voucher budget.

Shepherd feels that the court needs to step in and set policy. “You have to wonder who is harmed by this,” she told The Daily Beast. “It’s the people whose children are in public schools. They are the ones who are being harmed by the courts. And that is certainly not the case with voucher schools, as the families who use them would not get vouchers at all.”

Part of that benefit goes to Shepherd and her family, as they are able to send their daughter, Rebecca, to Jewish Community School of the Twin Cities for five-and-a-half hours a day for $8,850. Minnesota spends more on the private school than state school — $8,800 is about $11,000 less than the average in public schools. However, the Shepherds disagree. “At the end of the day, there are benefits and cost-benefit assessments which are no different here,” she says. “These are issues of individual rights and the right to education for all children.”

The concern is that the voucher program benefits schools with highly religious affiliations — a pattern that happened with the Dallas voucher program in the ’90s.

Nicolette Mason, a parent at Shiloh Lutheran in Burnsville, said that when she found out she would have to surrender her child’s voucher to her husband because she was not doing her job as a mother in the changing school environment, she immediately turned to a school which, like her, shares similar doctrinal views as her husband. She has given up all hope that her child’s voucher will survive the Supreme Court ruling.

“I was devastated,” she said. “You have this feeling of relief and pride that your children are doing well. But then it becomes like, ‘Oh God, what do we do next?’”

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.


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