title-s.gif (3668 bytes)



Issues and Arguments

     School vouchers, also known as scholarships, redirect the flow of education funding, channeling it directly to individual families rather than to school districts. This allows families to select the public or private schools of their choice and have all or part of the tuition paid. Scholarships are advocated on the grounds that parental choice and competition between public and private schools will improve education for all children. Vouchers can be funded and administered by the government, by private organizations, or by some combination of both.
     This page brings together some of the most important sources of evidence on the outcomes of existing scholarship programs. It includes studies of both privately- and publicly-funded programs, as well as the results of a key court case. (A more comprehensive discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of both private and government-funded scholarships can be found in the book Market Education: The Unknown History.)

     Government-run voucher programs are very controversial, and they have been criticized from two very different angles. The first body of criticism alleges that competitive markets are not well suited to the field of education, and that any school reform based on privatization, competition, and parental choice is doomed to failure. A summary of these arguments, with responses, can be found by clicking here.
     The second body of criticism states that government-funded scholarships would not create a genuinely free educational market, but instead would perpetuate dependence on government funding and regulation to the continued detriment of families. These arguments, along with responses are described here.

Judicial Verdicts

     The Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin ruled on June 10th, 1998, that the expanded Milwaukee voucher program--which will allow up to 15,000 children to attend any religious or other private school--does not violate either the state or federal constitutions. A link to the complete verdict follows, but please note that due to the size of the page it may be slow to load. Complete verdict.
     This verdict was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on November 9, 1998, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they had voted 8 to 1 not to hear the appeal, and thus to allow the verdict of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to stand.


An Evaluation of the Cleveland Scholarship Program

by Jay P. Greene, William G. Howell, and Paul E. Peterson

     "This evaluation, issued by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG), reports the results of a survey of a random sample of parents who applied for a CSTP scholarship, including both parents of scholarship recipients and parents of non-recipients. It also reports test-score results for students attending two schools established in response to the creation of CSTP."--From the report's Executive Summary.
     Note that researchers from Indiana University completed a study of the Cleveland program in May of 1998 and found no academic benefits to students after the first year (not available on-line). Peterson and Greene have identified a number of critical flaws in the Indiana paper, however, which greatly undermine its credibility. Their assessment of the Indiana study will hopefully be made available here shortly.

Fifth Year Report: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

by John F. Witte, Troy D. Sterr and Christopher A. Thorn

     An analysis of the Milwaukee publicly-run voucher program by the officially appointed researcher. According to Witte, the parents of "choice" kids are virtually unanimous in their opinion of the program: they love it. Parents are not only far more satisfied with their freely chosen private schools than they were with their former public schools, they participate more actively in their children's education now that they've made the move. See the review of "The Effectiveness of School Choice in Milwaukee," below, for a note on academic achievement outcomes of the program.

The Effectiveness of School Choice in Milwaukee

by Jay P. Greene, Paul E. Peterson, and Jiangtao Du

     "A Secondary Analysis of Data from the Program's Evaluation." Witte's studies failed to demonstrate any academic advantage to students in choice schools. Recently, a reanalysis of the raw data by statisticians and educational researchers from Harvard and the University of Houston found that choice students do indeed benefit academically from the program, showing significant gains in both reading and mathematics by their fourth year of participation.

Fourth Year Report: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

by: John F. Witte

     See above. Previous year's report by Mr. Witte.


Private Vouchers

Edited by Terry M. Moe (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1995)

Find out more from the Hoover Institution.

     As described on the Taking Action page, privately funded and operated voucher programs are perhaps the most effective way to help low-income families become active consumers in the educational marketplace, helping them to gain control over their children's education and encouraging them to become more involved. More than two dozen private voucher programs exist in cities across the United States, and Terry Moe has collected some of the most interesting and compelling studies of these programs in Private Vouchers. The attitudes and motivations of participating parents are explored, as are the academic effects of programs from Texas to Wisconsin. Truly an important source of empirical evidence for anyone interested in the impact of competition and choice on the ability of schools to serve the needs of families.

School Choice: Why You Need It--How You Get It, by David Harmer (1994)


About the Editor       Back to Research Page       Send Comments

Copyright 1998
All rights reserved