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Segregation Fears Linger Under Surface of Voucher Debate

Segregation Fears Linger Under Surface of Voucher Debate

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Private school vouchers are often touted as a way to level the educational playing field for less affluent families, particularly minorities living in poverty.

But in Utah, one of the chief critics of the nation's broadest voucher program is the NAACP, which fears vouchers are a backdoor to creating segregated schools.

The fear about voucher programs leading to segregated schools exists because it's happened before. The first state-sponsored voucher programs arose in Southern states as a way to help white families avoid sending their children to integrated schools. The schools were dubbed "segregation academies" and popped up throughout the South.

Eventually, courts ruled those scholarship programs illegal. However, many white students continued to avoid enrolling in public schools and those who did often moved to predominantly white districts.

But Leah Barker, spokeswoman for Salt Lake City pro-voucher group Parents for Choice in Education, said it's minorities and low-income families who will benefit the most from the voucher program. She says parents will finally be able to send children to the school of their choice regardless of how much money they make or where they live.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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