Education Opinion

Think Vouchers Are Dead? Think Again -- Again.

By Alexander Russo — April 06, 2007 6 min read
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It’s not that I’m particularly enamored or dismissive of voucher proposals. It’s just that I think some folks have blinders on about their viability in the current political and policy environment. And, if the Bush Administration is willing to make controversial recess appointments this early in the game (as it did this week), what won’t they go for?

“The recent adoption of multiple voucher programs at the state level suggests that demands for increased private school choice have not waned,” according to this missive from the National Center on Privatization In Education at Columbia’s Teacher College, which lists recent voucher victories and defeats in the states and predicts a Congressional showdown (click below).

Previous Posts:
Vouchers and Charterization Not Off The Table... Yet.
Vouchers & Charterization Proposals Not Necessarily “DOA”From NCPE:

Is support for vouchers growing at the state level?

The rapid growth of charter schools and the implementation of No Child Left Behind have focused popular attention on public school choice. However, the recent adoption of multiple voucher programs at the state level suggests that demands for increased private school choice have not waned. In 2006, Arizona passed a bill to provide tuition stipends for special education students to attend private schools. Approximately 125,000 students are now eligible to receive these vouchers. In 2007, Utah became the first state to approve a universal voucher program, allowing all public school students to receive tuition assistance to attend private schools. However, the impact of private school choice on student achievement and educational equity remains hotly contested and not all voucher proposals have been met with approval. Most recently, an attempt to pass a voucher bill through the South Carolina Legislature was defeated. The debate on private school choice is likely to come to a head with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind where, once again, the Bush Administration is expected to push for a federal voucher program. In the interest of helping interested parties better understand the potential costs and benefits of voucher reform, the NCSPE provides links below to general information and pertinent research studies about education vouchers.

The NCSPE website answers frequently asked questions about the potential positive and negative consequences of education vouchers, as well as other education reforms, at http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/Education%20Vouchers-FAQ.pdf. The NCSPE also highlights research into vouchers through its occasional paper series. A few recent and notable papers are highlighted below. For more information please visit http://ncspe.org/list-papers.php.

Occasional Paper No. 130

Education Vouchers for Universal Pre-Schools

by Henry M. Levin and Heather Schwartz

This paper examines two issues related to pre-school education funding. First, the authors provide a brief set of arguments for government funding of universal, pre-school education. Second, they explore the applicability of a voucher plan using a regulated market approach for the funding of universal, pre-school education. The authors conclude that the highly regulated Georgia pre-school program appears to produce superior results than one built upon exclusive production of pre-school services by government entities. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP130.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 127

The Future of Vouchers: Lessons from the Adoption, Design, and Court Challenges of Three Voucher Programs in Florida

by Douglas N. Harris, Carolyn D. Herrington, and Amy Albee

This paper examines when education voucher programs are likely to be proposed by legislators, supported by voters, and found constitutional by the courts. The authors report that vouchers in Florida first emerged as a part of a larger accountability system. In addition, moderate social conservatism, previous experience with privatization in other government sectors, a large and growing Hispanic population, and transplanted residents with weak ties to the public education system all contributed to support for voucher reform. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP127_revised.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 125

Enrollment Practices in Response to Vouchers: Evidence from Chile

by Gregory Elacqua

This paper uses international evidence to examine student sorting by parental education and income within a large-scale voucher program. The author finds that public schools tend to have more diverse enrollments than private voucher schools. Among the different types of private voucher schools, the for-profit sector is most likely to enroll disadvantaged students. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP125.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 121

Estimating the Effects of Private School Vouchers in Multi-District Economies

by Maria M. Ferreyra

This paper examines universal and non-sectarian voucher programs. The author finds that private school enrollments increase under both types of voucher programs and that some voucher users may migrate towards neighborhoods with lower housing prices and send their children to private schools. However, non-sectarian vouchers produce smaller private school enrollment gains and lead to declines in Catholic school enrollment. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP121b.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 117

Tiebout Choice and the Voucher

by Eric Brunner and Jennifer Imazeki

This paper examines who potentially gains, and who loses, from the introduction of a universal voucher program. The authors find that in areas with few schooling options, potential changes in peer group composition favor high-socioeconomic (SES) households. In areas where multiple schooling options already exist, potential changes in housing prices create favor low-SES households. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP117.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 112

The Evidence on Education Vouchers: An Application to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program

by Clive R. Belfield

This paper analyzes the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, the second oldest voucher program in the U.S. The author finds no academic benefits for voucher users in second and fourth grade after statistical adjustments are made for prior achievement and time spent at a private school. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP112.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 100

Do Vouchers Lead to Sorting even under Random Private School Selection? Evidence from the Milwaukee Voucher Program

by Rajashri Chakrabarti

This paper examines the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The author finds that program applicants score higher on ability measures including educational attainment, educational expectations, and involvement in school activities than eligible non-applicants. This evidence suggests that current policies such as lotteries and eligibility restrictions do not completely eliminate socio-economic selection and sorting. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP100.pdf

Occasional Paper No. 95

Vouchers and Public Policy: When Ideology Trumps Evidence

by Henry M. Levin and Clive R. Belfield

This paper contends that evaluations of voucher programs must openly acknowledge and account for competing ideologies. A comprehensive framework of analysis is defined that employs four criteria- freedom of choice, efficiency, equity, and social cohesion-to analyze the regulation, finance, and social services provisions of individual voucher programs. This framework allows policymakers to gauge desired outcomes and understand the tradeoffs that choice reforms entail, especially when evidence is limited. Please visit: http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP95.pdf

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