WSJ analysis: Vouchers don’t make much of a difference

A Wall Street Journal analysis suggests private school vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. The vast majority of private schools participating in the program today have high percentages of publicly funded students.

Milwaukee was the first city in the country to use school vouchers, almost 30 years ago. In Milwaukee, the 29,000 voucher students, on average, have performed about the same as their peers in public schools on state exams, the analysis shows.

Vouchers are often described “as coupons, backed by state dollars, that parents can use to send their kids to the school of their choice, even private, religiously affiliated schools,” NPR reported. “The money is all or some of what the state would have otherwise spent to educate the child in a public school.”

Voucher programs around the country have generated similar results as Milwaukee, even though “no other voucher program in the U.S. targeting poor children and underperforming schools has penetrated as deeply or been around as long,” the WSJ reported.

Charlie May of Salon writes, “These studies seem to show that many factors can explain why a student can do better than another student, but how much he or she paid for his or her education doesn’t seem to be one of them.”