Kevin Carey, writing for the Upshot, has a column about recent studies that indicate vouchers are not improving educational outcomes. There has really never been strong evidence showing that voucher students do better than students attending traditional public schools. And, recent studies, show that they probably do worse. Given that traditional public schools add value to the community over and above the individual educations they provide to the students who attend, we should conclude and begin unwinding this voucher experiment. To improve public schools, we should look to systems in other countries that are outperforming ours and seek to emulate those things they are doing better.
The first results discussed by Mr. Carey came from Indiana where:
Researchers examined an Indiana voucher program that had quickly grown to serve tens of thousands of students under Mike Pence, then the state’s governor. “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.
The next came from Louisiana where:
They found large negative results in both reading and math. Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year. Results were somewhat better in the second year, but were still well below the starting point.
Finally, Ohio, where a study financed by the pro-voucher Waltons concluded, “Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.” Massachusetts seems to have a more successful program than Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio, but it is marked by “nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.”
In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.
We’re not going to free-market our way out of our educational problems. Again, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Other places are having better success with their educational systems. We need to identify methods that are successful and copy them.
This has always been bothersome for the reasons you stated, among others. But I’ve also been concerned about the fact that the State Constitution assumes responsibility for the education of students, to the point of assuming responsibility for the General Fund. Then they enable students to attend venues that have been shown to be inferior to the point where they don’t make these schools as accountable as the public schools. I don’t know if they can escape liability for that. Sooner or later someone is going to get angry about that.
My position is anything that weakens public education I’m against. And vouchers quite clearly do so.