Student Vouchers Aren’t Working. Here’s Why

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But that has all changed. In April, the Institute of Education Sciences released a rigorous study showing that the congressionally mandated Opportunity Scholarship Program in the nation’s capital caused significant negative effects on student learning. Students who used vouchers through the program to attend private schools in Washington experienced a 7-percentile-point decline in mathematics and an almost 5-percentile-point decline in reading compared with students who applied to, but were randomly rejected from, the program.

This report follows recent research on voucher programs in Louisiana, Ohio, and Indiana, all producing large, negative effects on learning for voucher students. In Louisiana, an average student using a voucher would end the first year of the program falling from the 50th to the 34th percentile in math. If the student was in 3rd through 5th grade, he or she would end the year even lower, at the 26th percentile. The impact of participation in Ohio’s EdChoice program was “unambiguously negative across a variety of model specifications, for both reading and mathematics,” according to a study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute last year. Similar negative findings are reported for Indiana’s statewide voucher program, the largest in the nation.

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2 Lawsuits Seek State Vouchers For Poor Youths

The suits were organized by the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based organization. These people do not really enjoy access to the American dream–they do not enjoy the opportunity to send their children to a safe, decent school,” Clint Bolick, the vice president and litigation director for the institute, said at a news conference in Washington.

The lawsuits cite various provisions of the state constitutions and the U.S. Constitution in seeking rulings that would allow the children to leave the public-school system and take their share of state education funding with them.

The Chicago suit, for example, points out that the Illinois constitution requires the state to “provide for an efficient system of high-quality public educational institutions and services.”

“By any objective measure, defendants have not provided” the Chicago pupils with “efficient or high-quality public educational institutions,” the lawsuit argues. The appropriate remedy would be to allow the children to take their ”pro rata” share of state education funding-currently about $2,500-and use it to enroll in private schools or other public schools, the suit contends.

An unusual aspect of the Chicago and Los Angeles suits is that they are not class actions. Rather than seeking to extend the remedy to all low-income parents whose children are receiving inadequate educations, the suits seek a ruling only on behalf of the named plaintiffs.

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