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Archives for Vouchers (page 1 / 1)

Consider the Milwaukee Evidence in Debate on Voucher Expansion

Consider the Milwaukee Evidence in Debate on Voucher Expansion →

Wisconsin's School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) recently finished a 5-year study of the effectiveness of Milwaukee's voucher program.

After five years, the SCDP team found:

Statistically significant gains for voucher users in reading compared to matched Milwaukee Public School (MPS) pupils (with the important caveat that the introduction of program wide WKCE testing in the final year of the evaluation could be responsible for some of the gains);

  • Statistically similar impacts on math test scores for matched MPS and MPCP users;
  • A modest positive impact on public school tests scores as more private schools participated in the MPCP;
  • Statewide taxpayer savings, though not in Milwaukee;
  • Higher graduation rates for voucher users compared to MPS;
  • Higher rates of four-year college enrollment for voucher users;
  • Evidence that closed schools in both MPS and the MPCP were the lower performers;
  • High levels of parental satisfaction;
  • No impact on housing prices or racial integration;
  • High rates of school switching;
  • Wide variation in achievement levels between schools.

So what are the practical lessons from the SCDP for other communities considering vouchers? Don’t expect the introduction of a voucher program to sizably increase test scores across the board for voucher users, or students in public schools. It’s safe to expect no negative impact on test scores, but any gains will likely be substantively small. So if the primary consideration in a community is raising test scores, a voucher program like Milwaukee’s may not be wise.

However, if you are a community struggling with high school graduation rates, particularly for low-income pupils (like Madison and Green Bay), a Milwaukee style voucher program could be a viable strategy to raise attainment.

I think this evidence justifies expanding the voucher program state wide. I'd love to see that happen.

School Choice in the Long Run

School Choice in the Long Run →

Adam Ozimek looks at two recent school choice studies and comes to a very interesting conclusion.

Furthermore, this type of evolutionary progress will be hard for studies that compare the performance of any existing schools to capture. New schools will have a lot of learning to do, and the best schools will evolve to be the best over time as they learn what works best and how to best serve local populations and labor markets. But by the time this evolution has produced it’s biggest gains the system will be closer to competitive equilibrium, where [one] would expect the public schools that survive to perform as well as the private schools that survive. At no point in this process will comparing charters or private schools and public schools reflect the largest gains of school choice. At some points you would expect zero difference.

This entry was tagged. Research Vouchers

Comparing MPS and Voucher Per-Pupil Support

Comparing MPS and Voucher Per-Pupil Support →

I find discussions of the per-pupil funding level of different types of Milwaukee schools usually turns into a debate on how to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of per-pupil support for the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP).  While basic differences in MPS and MPCP schools and their cost-drivers make any comparison imperfect, the following is what you might call a green apples to red apples comparison.

...Though not perfect, I think $13,063 (MPS) and $7,126 (MPCP) are reasonably comparative per-pupil public support numbers for MPS and the MPCP.

What's wrong with "cherry picking"?

Yowza. This is Jerry Pournelle on education and "cherry picking".

On education, the usual critique of charter schools is that they are guilty of "cherry picking" which is to say, they accept only students who want to learn something and are willing to be disciplined. Thus an academically accomplished charter school in DC was not allowed. Cherry picking is supposed to be a bad thing? As opposed to the current practice of making those who would like to learn in DC go to a school that accepts those who do not want to learn and refuse to be disciplined? And this from people who are supposed to be liberal? It seems to me a very good way to keep the blacks in their place. Make them go to lousy schools filled with disorder while you send yours to schools that have discipline, and then on to Harvard. Is that the goal of liberalism? To keep the blacks down? Because I think of no better way to accomplish that goal than what is happening in DC. Tons of money spent on truly horrible schools that no one who could possibly escape them would go to? Would anyone who had in mind the good of black children in DC permit the current school system there to exist for ten minutes more?

The money is spent, and the results are known, and nothing is to be done. Yet under the Constitution the Congress is responsible. One presumes that both parties intend the results obtained since neither party makes any attempt to do anything about it.

That's the best response to the cherry picking argument that I've seen yet.

The D.C. Choice Program Saved Money

Spreading Freedom and Saving Money: The Fiscal Impact of the D.C. Voucher Program

In August 2004 the first ever federally funded school voucher program began in Washington, D.C. Eligible students could attend a private school of their choice in the District of Columbia. Each participant received up to $7,500 for school tuition, fees, and transportation. In addition, the D.C. Public School System (DCPS) and D.C. charter school system each received $13 million in federal grants to improve their programs.

This study examines the fiscal impact of the voucher program on DCPS and the District of Columbia. The program is currently funded by the federal government and creates a net inflow of funds to both the District and DCPS. This study also examines the fiscal impact of the program under several proposed changes to the law. Those scenarios include funding the program locally, making it universally available to all D.C. public school students, and expanding capacity by including regional private schools.

Our findings include the following:

  • The current program saves the city nearly $8 million, mostly because it is federally funded and includes a federal grant to public schools.
  • If federal grant subsidies were withdrawn and the program were locally funded, the city would still save $258,402 due to the greater efficiency of school choice.
  • A locally funded universal program would maximize the economic benefits of school choice, saving $3 million.
  • The process by which both DCPS and its schools are funded is not conducive to efficiency or excellence. The voucher program currently allows the central administration to retain an even higher share of overall funding than it did previously, leaving the management of reduced expenditures predominately at the school level. A universal school choice program could help to put a larger share of resources into the hands of schools.

Full Text (PDF, 763 KB)

Parents Want School Choice

It surprises me that more parents don't vote for more school choice. Under the current system, your kids go to school wherever the school board says they go to school -- parents have very little say in the matter. Parents in Madison were reminded of that last night.

The pleas of an emotional audience were not enough to dissuade the Madison School Board from approving a new boundary plan for elementary and middle schools in the Memorial High School attendance area.

The board voted unanimously at its meeting Monday night to give a green light to Plan F, which moves more than 400 students at five elementaries. Boundary changes are necessary in anticipation of a new school now under construction on the far west side. The school will open next fall.

The majority of parents testifying at a public hearing session that lasted for more than two hours objected to the part of the plan that moves 64 students from the neighborhoods around WISC-TV/Channel 3 from Chavez Elementary to Falk Elementary.

Parents argued that the plan was hastily drawn and poorly communicated and that their neighborhood and children have been involved in more moves over the last 10 years than others have.

In addition, many parents expressed concerns about the move to Falk, which currently has an enrollment of 66 percent low-income students.

Other changes that drew fire from unhappy parents who live in the Hawk's Landing area near the new elementary school included the board's unanimous decision to send students from the new school to Toki Middle School instead of Jefferson Middle School as originally planned.

School Board member Lawrie Kobza explained that it's important for the board to try to keep capacity levels up in schools closer to the core of the city to allow for growth at the edges of the community.

The school board does what it wants, according to its all-knowing master plan. The parents are free to either pound sand in frustration or move to a new neighborhood. A voucher or tax credit system would allow parents to choose which school their children attend, without having to fight the School Board or buy a house.

This entry was tagged. Vouchers

Death by Ink

Mark Twain once advised people to "never start a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel". It's a lesson that the New York State United Teachers union might do well to learn. On January 13, John Stossel hosted an ABC special called Stupid in America. In it, he focused on public schools, private schools, educational vouchers, and other forms of school choice. He was critical of the union for their role in protecting bad teachers, at the expense of students. The union didn't react well to the criticism. Unfortunately for them, Stossel buys ink by the barrel.

Ever since Stupid in America aired, Stossel has been writing weekly columns about school choice and the teachers' union. The first six columns (Myth: Schools don't have enough money, Trapped in the wrong government school, Learning to read in South Carolina, Time for choice and competition, Union bosses get in the way of common sense, and Unions fight to protect the nightmare) recap the content of his ABC special. His most recent columns (The teachers unions are mad at me and Time to teach) are a direct response to the attacks he's received from the union.

I don't think this is a war that the unions can win. John can keep writing columns about school choice indefinitely. With each new column, he can print more facts and figures about the problems and inefficiencies of the union. The more they attack, the more damage John can do to them. The damage may be exponential as well. In his most recent column, he tells how the union chanted "Teach, John, teach!" outside of his door. They wanted him to go into a public school and teach for a week. It's an offer that Stossel has accepted. Will the union actually follow through or was it all a bluff? Either way, I'm not sure it will come out looking any better than it already has.

This entry was tagged. Vouchers

Responsibility and School Vouchers

Local radio personality John Peterson wrote a blog post yesterday called The Voucher Wedge. In it, he talked about his displeasure with the voucher program that allows students to leave the Milwaukee Public Schools and enroll in various types of private schools. He has two specific complaints about giving families vouchers to use at non-public schools:

First, the choice program is sending taxpayer dollars into private schools that are not accountable to people of this state. I had heard Republicans were the party of accountability. Not only is there is no standardized test to compare private and public schools ability educate children, but choice supporters have blocked an honest evaluation to support their contention that private schools are better.

Second, public schools could not budget accurately for the next year without knowing enrollment numbers. Suggesting that there be no cap demonstrates a lack of business savvy.

As a supporter of vouchers, I'd like to respond to John's complaints. Now, I'm definitely not an "educational expert". I'm a guy with a blog that likes to ask questions and raise concerns. I'm probably overlooking some subtleties of the educational system. I'm not an expert on the Milwaukee Choice Program or on the private schools that are currently accepting vouchers. These are simply my reactions to John's assertions.

I must admit that I'm a bit surprised by his first complaint. He claims that private schools are not accountable to "people of this state". Well, as I see it, the private schools are accountable to one very important group of people: the parents who are sending their children to these schools. The vouchers, that the parents receive, are usable at many different schools. If the parents see that their children are doing worse in a voucher school than they were in a public school, it's a simple matter to move the children to a new voucher school or back into the MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools).

That's why I think this complaint is a bit of a red herring. WEAC (Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state teachers union) would love to keep Milwaukee's children in their schools. To that end, WEAC moans about a lack of oversight and a lack of standardized testing. What they really mean, is that WEAC is not able to oversee the schools or determine if Milwaukee's children are measuring up to WEAC's standards. (Now it's true that John only mentioned state oversight of the private schools. But really, which group has the most influence over Wisconsin's educational policy? WEAC does. Therefore, it seems to me, that any state oversight of eduction really boils down to WEAC oversight of education.)

I don't think a teacher's union should be the final arbiters of whether teachers are doing a good job. I don't think teachers should be determining which school system does the best job of teaching children. I think doing so creates an inherent conflict of interest for the teachers. I believe parents are the best judge of school effectiveness. I think parents are the best judge of which school does the best job of teaching their children. I think parents will do a better job of providing school oversight than other "people of this state" ever would. I may be wrong. I'd love to hear from anyone who can point me to widespread examples of parents making poor educational choices for their children.

John's other complaint revolves around the budgeting process for MPS. Specifically that with vouchers public schools could not budget accurately for the next year without knowing enrollment numbers. Again, I'm not an expert at this, and I may be wrong. It seems to me that, with an expanded voucher program in place, public school enrollment will only be going down, not up. If that's case, what's so hard about budgeting? Stick to the same budget that was used in the previous year. It should be more than adequate to cover expenses for the current year. It will probably even have money left over. Am I wrong? Am I missing something obvious that would make the budget process something truly worrisome?