May 2, 2023

Josh Cowen: How School Voucher Programs Hurt Students

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Josh Cowen is a professor of education policy at Michigan State University. He’s been studying voucher programs for two decades, In a recent issue of Time, he explains some ofthe results that he’s found.

Let’s start with who benefits. First and foremost, the answer is: existing private school students. Small, pilot voucher programs with income limits have been around since the early 1990s, but over the last decade they have expanded to larger statewide initiatives with few if any income-eligibility requirements. Florida just passed its version of such a universal voucher program, following Arizona’s passage in the fall of 2022. In Arizona, more than 75% of initial voucher applicants had never been in public school—either because they were new kindergartners or already in private school before getting a voucher. That’s a problem because many voucher advocates market these plans as ways to improve educational opportunities for public school children.

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