News from EPI – Voucher programs don’t improve education and have important downsides
In a new report, Stanford professor and EPI research associate Martin Carnoy finds that voucher programs that promote private schooling have not delivered on promised improvements in educational outcomes. Rather, they tend to divert effort away from investments in public education that have been shown to improve educational attainments.
Carnoy reviews evaluations of voucher programs in cities including Milwaukee, Dayton, and Washington D.C. and states including Indiana, Louisiana, and Florida to show that vouchers do not significantly improve student achievement.
In Milwaukee, which has been a total “choice” district for 20 years, students can select among traditional public schools, public magnet schools, and charter schools. However, only one in four students attends his or her neighborhood school. With one of the highest number of school choice participants in the country, Milwaukee’s African American students rank second to last for eighth grade math scores and last for reading scores.
“If we want to give parents a real ‘choice’ of quality schools, we should invest in neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies,” said Carnoy. “All of these yield much higher returns than the minor gains that have been estimated for voucher students.”
Carnoy recommends investing in early childhood education, after-school and summer programs, and implementing high standards in math, reading, and science curricula in order to improve student achievement.
“Betsy DeVos, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, is a strong proponent of allowing public education dollars to go to private and religious education, “ said Carnoy. “It’s up to her to set the tone for Congress to value public education and educators.”