March 25, 2023

Drew Landry: The final word on vouchers

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Drew Landry is an assistant professor of government at South Plains College. In this op-ed for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, he beings up some pertinent facts for Texans to consider about vouchers.

The ongoing issue with studies on school vouchers, educational savings accounts, traditional public education, etc., is this is a state issue. This means that states have different ways of administering education, including voucher programs. A state like Louisiana has a lottery system and when advocates for voucher programs studied what happened in Louisiana, the results were not trumpeted like those that came before it. Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters conducted research similar to the often cited 2016 study by M. Danish Shakeel, Kaitlin Anderson, and Patrick Wolf. This piece of research was published in the voucher-friendly American Economic Journal and found negative results in math, reading, science, and social studies in the lottery system of Louisiana’s Scholarship Program (LSP). To quote the research, “the negative impacts of LSP vouchers…are therefore comparable in magnitude to some of the largest effects documented in recent studies of education programs.” Abdulkadiroglu, et al. found a causal effect between a state’s voucher program and bad private schools. Let us also consider the work by Will Robertson and Virginia Riel, where they examined the “school choice” system in North Carolina. The authors concluded “students with parents who graduated from college are overrepresented in charter schools relative to traditional public schools; underrepresented are students whose parents did not graduate from high school.” Robertson and Riel also found racial disparities, citing “white students who attend charter schools in North Carolina disproportionately attend segregated schools compared to students in traditional public schools. Specifically, white charter school students in North Carolina attend schools that are eighty percent white on average.”

Transitioning to a private school should also be considered. Megan Austin, R. Joseph Waddington, and Mark Berends studied the pathways and achievements in Indiana’s income-based voucher system. According to the authors, “moving from public to private schools with a voucher results in decreasing test scores, at least in math and especially for students who transition in earlier grades. Students who always attended private schools have higher math achievement at baseline experience no changes in their achievement before and after receiving a voucher. The achievement losses for public to private movers may be cause for concern for policymakers advocating for voucher programs. However, how students come to receive a voucher is as important to consider as the impact of receiving a voucher per se.”

What about the financial costs of a voucher system? The National Education Policy Center found “the indirect cost of vouchers would increase system spending…between 11% and 33% above” what is currently spent.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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