Politico has a fascinating look at school voucher programs across the country. They find these school choice programs cost a lot of money, but don’t do much to help students.
Taxpayers across the country will soon spend $1 billion annually for these voucher programs. But, they don’t always do what advocates promise.
Voucher recipients aren’t always trapped in failing public schools; in fact, some have never even tried the public system. Fully two-thirds of students in Wisconsin’s Parental Choice Program were already enrolled in private schools before they received the tuition subsidy — and an additional 5 percent were home-schooled, state data show.
As for academic gains, voucher backers often point to two studies, in D.C. and New York City, for hopeful signs. The research in D.C. found that giving vouchers to low-income students didn’t raise their test scores. But it did boost their high school graduation rate, according to their parents. In New York, meanwhile, African-American students who received vouchers were more likely than their peers to enroll in college, but the effect didn’t hold true for other groups, including Hispanic students.
Matthew Chingos, an education policy analyst at The Brookings Institution, sums up the research this way: Kids don’t make big gains when the state pays their way through private schools — but at least “there’s no evidence that people are being harmed.”