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Privatization and the History of Vouchers in Education


Privatization and the History of Vouchers in Education. Three Educational Innovations ... 'Education vouchers are tuition certificates that are issued by the ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Privatization and the History of Vouchers in Education

Privatization and the History of Vouchers in
Three Educational Innovations
  • Private School Choice Vouchers (today)
  • Public School Choice Charter Schools

Questions to Ask
  • Who promotes these programs? What are the ideas
    that shape these innovations?
  • Who benefits from these programs? What is the
    effect on social inequality? What is its effect
    on quality of teaching and learning in school

  • Competitive private enterprise is likely to be
    far more efficient--producing the most at the
    lowest cost--than government-run enterprises.
  • People will spend their money at the business
    where they get the best product for the smallest

  • This view of the world has affected not only
    educational policy, but also health policy, the
    proposal to change social security so that
    individuals can set up private accounts, and the
    way that the government does business through
    sub-contracting (military, accounting services)

Milton Friedman
  • A neo-liberal economist (who graduated from
    Rutgers University, 1932)
  • First proposed vouchers in an article, The Role
    of Government in Education, 1951.
  • Government has a monopoly over education no
    wonder the education system is in terrible shape!

Governments should finance education, but not
administer it
  • Governments could require a minimum level of
    education which they could finance by giving
    parents vouchers redeemable for a specified
    maximum sum per child per year if spent on
    approved educational services. Parents would
    then be free to spend this sum and any additional
    sum on purchasing educational services from an
    approved institution of their choice.

The educational services could be rendered by
private enterprises operating for profit or by
non-profit institutions of various kinds. The
role of the government would be limited to
assuring that the schools met certain minimum
standards such as the inclusion of a minimum
common content in their programs, much as it now
inspects restaurants to assure that they maintain
minimum sanitary requirements.
Government has appropriately been concerned with
widening the opportunity of young men and women
to get professional and technical training, but
it has sought to further this objective by the
inappropriate means of subsidizing such
education, largely in the form of making it
available free or at a low price at
governmentally operated schools.
A Definition of Vouchers
  • Education vouchers are tuition certificates that
    are issued by the government and are redeemable
    at the school of the students choice. Their aim
    is to make the education system operate as much
    like a free market as possible.
  • --Laura Hersh Salganik, The Fall and Rise of
    Education Vouchers, Teachers College Record
    (1981) 832.

Cleveland Scholarship and Testing Program, 1996
  • Gives students a scholarship which can be used to
    attend an alternative school (registered private
    school or a public school in another district) or
    to hire private tutors
  • Scholarship depends on income level of student,
    but cannot exceed 2,500

Other Voucher Programs
  • Milwaukee Voucher Program, 1990
  • Florida Voucher Program, 1999
  • Small, privately-run programs in Washington, DC
    (1993), New York City (1997), Dayton (1998), and
    San Antonio (1998)
  • All aimed at low-income students
  • Vouchers ranged from 1,200-4,000

Free-Enterprise Supporters of Vouchers
  • Private sector works better than public sector.
  • Competition breeds innovative programs and the
    diffusion of best practices in teaching and
  • Families more likely than the state to make
    educational decisions that benefit children.

Parental Supporters of Vouchers
  • Parents in urban areas who feel that the
    neighborhood schools are failing and seek other
  • Parents who seek religious education for their
  • Parents whose children already attend private

The push for school vouchers has created some
strange bedfellows. Free marketers not known for
their sensitivity to the plight of the poor find
themselves allied with disadvantaged urban
parents and community organizations that are
simply fed up with the abysmal quality of the
schools their children must attend. For urban
parents, vouchers loom as offering an escape
hatch for at least some of their
children. --Edward Fiske and Helen Ladd, After
Zelman The Need to Focus on the Core Education
Issues, Teachers College Record (2002).
Black Ministers Council backs school vouchers
  • Headline in the Courier Post, Friday, February
    11, 2005
  • Mainly the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey
    supported vouchers because of dissatisfaction
    with the local public school systems

Philosophical Opponents of Vouchers
  • Doubt a market system can be equitable and
  • Vouchers would require well-informed consumers
    who have equal bargaining power and a variety of
    schools, with diverse programs and well-measured

Institutional Opponents of Vouchers
  • Teachers unions concerned about the loss of
    jobs, benefits, and pay
  • Private schools concerned about government
    regulation (special education, standardized

Unequal Education with Bill Moyers (1994)
  • Jon Chubb and Jonathan Kozol on school vouchers

No Child Left Behind (2001)
  • Although the Republicans are generally for
    vouchers, they could not implement completely a
    voucher program because of the need to craft a
    compromise that would pass Congress.
  • Congress did pass a voucher program in the
    District of Columbia (2003).

No Child Left Behind (2001)
  • Students in schools identified for improvement
    must be allowed to attend a better public school
    (including a public charter school) within the
  • Low-income students in persistently failing
    schools must be allowed to use Title I funds to
    obtain supplemental educational services from a
    public or private school selected by the student
  • Schools must use 20 of their Title I funds to
    provide school choice and supplemental
    educational services

No Child Left Behind (2001)
  • Promotes public school choice (district charter
    schools, magnet schools, and state-wide,
    inter-district transfers) in addition to private
    tutoring choices for low-income students.
  • Mandates greater accountability, which makes
    private schools more wary of participating.

Philadelphia Inquirer,December 16, 2004
  • Fewer than 2,000 students are getting free
    outside tutoring this year in Philadelphia,
    although there are more than 110,000 children
    enrolled in underperforming schools that are
    required to offer this service.
  • 155 schools out of 267 schools fit the category
    of missing their academic improvement goals three
    years in a row.

Who benefits from the privatization provisions of
No Child Left Behind?
Questions regarding Vouchers
  • Are vouchers constitutional if public money is
    going to religious private schools?
  • Do vouchers boost student achievement?
  • Issues of equity are private schools open to
    all? Will this increase or decrease racial or
    class-based segregation? Are those who use
    vouchers the most well-educated and involved

Are Vouchers Constitutional?
  • In Cleveland in 1999, 96 of voucher students
    were enrolled in religious private schools.
  • For low-income families, because of tuition costs
    and the amount of the scholarship (generally
    under 3,000 per year), the only private schools
    available to them will be religious.
  • Private schools in Cleveland admitted voucher
    students without regard to race or religion.

Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris (2002)
  • In a 5-4 decision, on June 27, 2002, the US
    Supreme Court held that neutral educational
    assistance programs that
  • . . . offer aid directly to a broad class of
    individual recipients defined without regard to
    religion are constitutional.

Majority opinion
  • Rather than being a direct grant to a school,
    vouchers is a true private choice by a parent.
  • The program is neutral in regards to religion,
    allowing all schools in the district to
    participate, both religious and non-religious.
  • This is a broader undertaking to assist poor
    children in failed schools, not. . .an
    endorsement of religious schooling in general.

Dissenting Opinion
  • No public funds should be used to support
    educational programs run by religious
    institutions, because it will pay for religious
    teaching the covenant with Israel and Mosaic
    law, primacy of the Apostle Peter and the Papacy,
    truth of reformed Christianity, and revelation of
    the Prophet Mohammed.

Colorado, 2003
  • Colorado first in the nation to pass a school
    voucher law as a result of the Supreme Court
  • 4,500 vouchers to be offered to K-12 students to
    help offset private school tuition
  • 11 districts with 8 or more schools that received
    low or unsatisfactory academic performance
    ratings required to participate

Do Vouchers Boost Student Achievement?
  • Vouchers seem neutral in terms of student
    achievement, with no significant differences
    between voucher students and those who remain in
    public schools (from studies done of Cleveland,
    Dayton, Washington DC, New York City, Chile, and
    New Zealand voucher systems).

Do Vouchers Boost Student Achievement?
  • However, African-American students who switched
    to private schools did do better than their
    counterparts who remained in public schools but
    the difference was not consistent across cities
    or grade levels (Dayton, Washington DC, New
  • As a comparison, a Tennessee experiment to reduce
    class size helped African-American students far

Educational Innovation?
  • There is no strong evidence that vouchers promote
    educational innovation or the diffusion of
    best-practices management.

Issues of equity
  • Private schools are less likely to have a
    library, a nurses office, a cafeteria, and
  • Private schools rarely have programs for
    non-English speakers or students with special
    needs (disabilities, learning difficulties).

Issues of Equity
  • When faced with increased enrollment, schools
    tend not to expand, but choose their students for
    the spaces available, based on academic ability,
    test scores, discipline records, interviews with
    students and parents, and parents willingness to
    volunteer at the school.

Issues of Equity
  • Even in programs serving low-income students,
    those who use vouchers tend to be the most
    advantaged of the disadvantaged those with
    higher parental educational levels and fewer
    special needs.
  • Only 1/3 of voucher students in Milwaukee and 1/4
    in Cleveland came from public schools.

Why Vouchers May Not Matter
  • High dropout rates from voucher programs
  • Little gain in student achievement or educational
  • Vouchers are low subsidies, comparable to tuition
  • With greater push to accountability, private
    schools may not want to participate

Henigs Conclusion
  • The how matters more than the what. How is the
    program put in place? Is it sensitive to issues
    of social inequality?

Other Forms of Privatization
  • Home-schooling privately funded, privately
    provided, and almost completely privately
    regulated (about 800,000 students in 1999).
  • Tuition tax credit for private school tuition
    (currently about 1,000 in six states) reduce
    government revenues, subsidize private education,
    and unlike vouchers, only help those who pay taxes

Why has the privatization of public schooling
become so popular over the past three decades?
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