Notice: Use of undefined constant user_level - assumed 'user_level' in /mnt/stor1-wc2-dfw1/462854/www.scohio.org/web/content/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-google-analytics/ultimate_ga.php on line 524
In an article last week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (“Voucher supporters celebrate with students at St. Martin de Porres High School“), a top notch high school in Cleveland celebrated their “academic signing” day with students who have been accepted into colleges and universities across the country.
The article highlighted the success of Shawnetta Stephens and Greg Brooks who plan to attend Georgetown University and Youngstown State University, respectively. Congratulations to all the staff and students for their outstanding achievements!
But as the article notes, not everyone was happy about the role vouchers play in creating these opportunities:
Piet van Lier, senior researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank, is far less enthusiastic about the impact of vouchers. He noted there is no evidence that voucher students overall do better academically, and studies indicate many of them would have gone to private schools even without the state subsidy.
If their numbers increase, the state will be taking on more financial responsibility for private-school students while cutting funds for public schools, he said. “Vouchers are not solving the problems of public education, and there’s no evidence that they’re even doing what they’re supposed to do,” van Lier said.
Mr. Van Lier has been a staunch opponent of school vouchers, and he certainly should garner points for persistence. Many have asked us how we respond to these criticisms Maybe you face some of the same arguments or have some of the same questions yourself.
Here is how we respond.
Argument 1: “He noted there is no evidence that voucher students overall do better academically.”
Answer: A recent analysis shows that test scores of voucher recipients tend to be slightly better or the same, but usually not dramatically better. In ten high quality studies, no group of voucher recipients did worse than their public school counterparts, and in 9 of the studies voucher recipients performed better than expected. Beyond some moderate improvements on standardized assessments, we know for sure that graduation rates soar for voucher recipients. Most people would agree that a high school diploma has a dramatic impact on students’ life outcomes, much more than standardized test scores.
Study of DC Voucher recipient graduation rates: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104018/pdf/20104018.pdf
Studies of small academic gains in voucher recipients: www.edchoice.org/Research/Gold-Standard-Studies.aspx
Argument 2: “Studies indicate many [voucher recipients] would have gone to private schools even without the state subsidy.”
Answer: While some students, undoubtedly, would have gone to a private school without the state subsidy, there are a few important things to note here.
#1 – “Many” is not “all” and vouchers help a LOT of students who would have had no chance at a private school education otherwise.
#2 – In general with public policy, it is impossible to design a program only for families who aren’t going to send their child to private school anyway. How would you know who was eligible? Would you ask people only to apply if they weren’t already planning to attend private school? The Cleveland voucher is only given to low-income families who, common sense would indicate, are least likely to be able to afford private school on their own.
#3 – Vouchers are about letting families direct a portion of the tax dollars that are already allocated to their children’s education. Families who would have gone to private school without a state subsidy often make tremendous sacrifices and put their family’s financial health on the line. Vouchers allow them to access some of the money that is already set aside to educate their child.
Mr. Van Lier would rather that NO children get vouchers. This doesn’t seem like a good alternative.
Argument 3: “If [voucher] numbers increase, the state will be taking on more financial responsibility for private-school students while cutting funds for public schools.”
Answer: This is an interesting argument and could be at the core of the divide between school choice advocates and opponents. The state’s responsibility, under our current laws, is to fund the education of the children in the state. Allowing students to leave a struggling public school for a private school does not increase the state’s funding responsibility. It still funds the education of the student. After all, the public school is only entitled to the money when the student attends the school.
As one parent testified at a hearing last week: “If the cost of innovation is less to the family and to the state and will save millions of dollars as opposed to business as usual, then the choice should be clear and obvious.” The focus of education funding in Ohio could shift toward student-centered funding, rather than system-centered funding, which would allow schools (regardless of what type they are) that are doing the best job and have the most kids to get more funding for the great work they are doing.
Argument 4: “Vouchers are not solving the problems of public education, and there’s no evidence that they’re even doing what they’re supposed to do”
Answer: There actually are studies to show that vouchers help improve the public schools around them. But vouchers are not a silver bullet to solve all the problems of public education – that’s for sure. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. They are intended to allow parents to choose the best educational setting for their child, and they are doing just that.
Studies that shows how vouchers affect private schools positively:
While persistence is admirable, it doesn’t make you right. Parents and students across the nation have benefitted in tangible ways from school choice. We should absolutely continue to give Ohio families a wide array of educational options.