Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking is a 10-part brief that takes up important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations for policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.
NEPC Resources on Vouchers
NEPC Review: Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform
The 18th edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform draws on ratings from market-oriented advocacy groups to grade states in areas such as support for charter schools, availability of vouchers, and permissiveness for homeschooling. The authors contend that these grades are based on “high quality” research demonstrating that the policies for which they award high grades will improve education for all students.
The Friedman Foundation recently published a report promoting Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Like conventional vouchers, ESAs provide parents with public funds to purchase approved educational services, including private schools, online education, private tutors and higher education. The report presents ESAs as the optimal vehicle to bring Milton Friedman’s school voucher idea into the 21st century. While calling ESAs “the way of the future,” it lacks fundamental information to guide policymakers on their design, implementation, financing, and sustainability.
NEPC Review: The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City
This report examines college enrollment rates of students participating in an experimental New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program, which in the spring of 1997 offered 3-year scholarships worth up to $1,400 annually to low-income families. The study identifies no overall impacts of the voucher offer, but the authors report and emphasize large positive impacts for African American students, including increases in college attendance, full-time enrollment, and attendance at private, selective institutions of higher education.
NEPC Review: SCDP Milwaukee Evaluation Report #29: MPCP Longitudinal Educational Growth Study Fifth Year Report , SCDP Milwaukee Evaluation Report #30: Student Attainment and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Final Follow-up Analysis and SCDP Milwaukee Evaluation Report #32: Milwaukee Longitudinal School Choice Evaluation: Annual School Testing Summary Report 2010-11
Milwaukee’s voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), was created by state legislation in 1990 and enables low-income residents of the Milwaukee Public School district (MPS) to enroll at taxpayer expense in private schools that have been certified by the state Department of Public Instruction. The School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas released in 2012 the final reports based on its five-year longitudinal growth study of this voucher program. The following reviews are of three of these reports: Report #29 compares vouch
There are no findings of benefits of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program that are statistically distinguishable from zero. The evaluation of the program confirms that students who receive vouchers probably don't do any worse or any better when they move to private schools. But evidence doesn't seem to matter.
NEPC Review: The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Fourth Year Reports
This review is of The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Fourth Year Reports, published by the School Choice Demonstration Project, University of Arkansas. The report makes eight claims about the effectiveness of the program, most of them positive. On the key issue of achievement of students receiving vouchers, however, the report merely concludes that the program is not harmful.
How School Choice Can Create Jobs for South CarolinaThe South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation report, "How School Choice Can Create Jobs for South Carolina," argues that school choice, in the form of vouchers to attend private schools, would create significant job opportunities in five poor, rural counties of South Carolina. The report, however, relies almost exclusively on results of an earlier study that has significant limitations in its methodology and execution, rendering its findings unreliable.
The study under review is the second-year evaluation report of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), a publicly funded voucher program that allows low-income students in Milwaukee to attend secular and religious private schools in that city. Its primary finding is that there were no overall statistically significant differences in achievement growth in reading or math between MPCP and Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students over a one-year period. The study design and methods of analysis are sound overall.
The third-year evaluation of the federally funded Washington, D.C. voucher program shows that low-income students offered vouchers in the first two years of the program had modestly higher reading scores after three years but showed no significant difference in mathematics. The authors, however, interpret the results in ways that raise questions, given some of their own findings. The report downplays the implications of the subgroup results showing that higher reading scores for those offered vouchers were concentrated in among certain groups of students.
NEPC Review: The Effect of Milwaukeeâs Parental Choice Program on Student Achievement in Milwaukee Public Schools
According to a new study of Milwaukee public schools, student achievement has benefited from voucher-based school competition. A novel method, using geocoding, was proposed for measuring the degree of competition within the city of Milwaukee and, in turn, for determining whether such competition has increased or decreased the achievement of public school students.
A report from the School Choice Demonstration Project examines issues concerning the funding formula used for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). It finds that the program generates a net saving to taxpayers in Wisconsin but imposes a significant fiscal burden on taxpayers in Milwaukee. However, these findings depend significantly on how many students would have attended public school if the voucher option were not available, as well as on the actual resource requirements for those new voucher users. The report ignores the second assumption.
A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public SchoolsAdvocates of vouchers argue that nearby public schools will be forced to compete for students, leading to improvements for voucher users and non-users alike. Critics worry that the students who use vouchers to leave public schools will have parents with higher levels of education and be less expensive to educate, and that losing these students will cause those schools to enter spirals of decline.
NEPC Review: When Private Schools Take Public Dollars: Whatâs the Place of Accountability in School Voucher Programs?
The Fordham Institute conducted a survey of experts who are advocates of private education, soliciting opinions about how private schools accepting public monies, such as from voucher programs, should be held accountable. The experts were in agreement that private schools should not accept regulation of their day-to-day operations, but disagreed among themselves whether to accept top-down standardized testing accountability.
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has published 10 state reports based on surveys of likely voters in those states. According to the reports, the surveys demonstrate state residents’ endorsement of vouchers allowing parents to send children to private schools. This review finds this conclusion suspect due to several factors. Too many people contacted by phone failed to participate in the survey, thus compromising the generalizability of findings. In addition, many of those surveyed did not know about the educational issues on the surveys, such as voucher policies.
NEPC Review: Promising Start: An Empirical Analysis of How EdChoice Vouchers Affect Ohio Public Schools
A Friedman Foundation report attempts to find empirical support for the contention that competition from private schools, through voucher programs, improves the effectiveness of public schools. In the first year of Ohio’s new EdChoice voucher program, the report claims to have found substantial academic gains at public schools exposed to the possibility of losing students to vouchers. Despite being presented as scientifically rigorous, the report suffers from serious methodological shortcomings.
Tuition tax credits for private schools, a policy increasingly popular among advocates of school choice, present us with several riddles. When is a charitable donation not charity? When is a public expenditure not public spending? And what policy can be virtually indistinguishable from a voucher in its effects, but be treated by courts as something very different? The answer to this last question, and the key to answering the first two, is a type of tuition tax credit I call a “neovoucher.”
NEPC Review: The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida's McKay Scholarship Program
This policy brief reviews research on what impact the competition introduced by vouchers and charter schools has upon the effectiveness and efficiency of traditional public schools. Only recently has such research been possible in the United States, as choice options became sufficiently widespread to elicit competitive responses from traditional public schools.
NEPC Review: Feeling the Florida Heat? How Low-Performing Schools Respond to Voucher and Accountability Pressure
This study examines the relationship between high-stakes school accountability and its effects upon student test scores and school policies. The authors seek to understand the extent to which accountability sanctions and incentives for the poorest-performing schools in Florida explain subsequent changes in school practices and policies as well as achievement — measured by state assessment data, Stanford-10 assessment data and surveys of public school principals.
This policy brief examines empirical research on the demographic characteristics of students and families who actively engage in school choice as well as the research on the motivations, preferences and behavior of families who actively choose schools. Although there have been many surveys asking parents about their preferences for schools or about what they would choose if they had a choice, such studies are not the focus of this brief. Rather, the research reviewed here is only that which focuses on those who have actively chosen a school.
A new annual report from the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation is designed as a resource to provide ammunition for persuading people as to the merits of school choice. While there may indeed be a number of reasons to argue for school choice, this handbook shoots blanks.
The report reviewed here finds that private schools in Cleveland are less segregated than the city’s public schools. According to the review, this finding is important, but it says little about whether voucher programs would increase or decrease segregation.
This report evaluates the impact of the District of Columbia Public Schools' voucher program after its first year and its impact on educational spending. The report examines whether the plan has saved DC and its school district any money.
Authors: Alan J. Borsuk, Sarah Carr, and Leonard Sykes Jr. Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel In 1990, Milwaukee began a revolutionary experiment in school choice for low-income students. How is it faring 15 years later? Over the past five months, Journal Sentinel reporters visited 106 schools to find out. This series of seven articles describes their findings.
Publisher Teachers College Record, 7(10)
Page Numbers 2274-2297
Publisher Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13(41)
Source: Palm Beach Post This webpage is a collection of newspaper articles from the Palm Beach Post which address issues regarding school voucher initiatives in Florida.
This series of policy briefs examining education reform in Florida finds that the results of the state's aggressive school-reform program have been mixed, and that the state's actions often do not match its rhetoric when it comes to implementing reforms.
Each of the following sections can be found in downloadable format below. The separate Executive Summaries can be found here.
Source: People for the American Way An initial People For the American Way analysis of federal education grants has uncovered a pattern of major and at times unsolicited grants made to a small cadre of pro-voucher private advocacy groups.
Authors: Kimberly Miller and Shirish Date Source: Palm Beach Post Two Internet schools, including one run by politically connected William Bennett, got state permission to give "virtual school" vouchers to children who did not attend public school last year, despite a law that says exactly the opposite.
Publisher EPIC Occasional Paper
Summary This Occasional Paper provides an analysis of three school voucher bills: the Colorado Education Scholarship Program (SB 099), the Colorado Education Scholarship Pilot Program (SB 077), and the Colorado Opportunity Contract Pilot Program (HB 1160). It begins with a general discussion of school vouchers.
Publisher EPIC Occasional Paper
Summary HB-1137, a bill relying on tax credits that are designed to create voucher-like grants to pay nonpublic school tuition for low-income children, is the focus of this report.
Not Just Poor Kids Receiving Vouchers, Higher-Income Students Are Also Reaping Benefits of Program, Data Show
Authors: Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard Source: Akron Beacon Journal This article states that increasingly state vouchers are being used to underwrite private school tuition for families well above median income levels. The vast majority of these state-sponsored children attend religious schools, creating controversy over whether the program encourages religion.
Source: The Arizona Republic