“The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence From Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program”
Public school students made greater academic improvements as their school choices increased under Florida’s tuition voucher program, a study says.
Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, both senior fellows of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, based in New York City, measured “exposure” to the McKay Scholarship Program based on how many schools that accepted vouchers were within close geographic proximity of a given public school. Public schools with many voucher-accepting schools nearby were considered to have greater exposure than those where the options were physically distant.
McKay Scholarships are available for students with individualized education programs, which are required under federal law for students with disabilities. The vouchers let recipients attend public schools of their choice or private schools that accept the vouchers.
The study found that public school students with relatively mild disabilities made test-score improvements in mathematics and reading as more nearby private schools began participating in the McKay program. Students with severe disabilities appeared to be neither helped nor hurt by increased exposure to the program.
The authors do not offer reasons for the gains by students on Florida’s state assessment in reading and math. However, they write, “our results from evaluating Florida’s McKay program provide additional evidence that rather than being harmed, public schools respond to the challenge of exposure to school choice by improving the education they provide.”