Jon Alfuth over at Bluff City Ed wrote about the problems with vouchers last year during what is becoming an annual debate over the need (or lack thereof) for a voucher program in Tennessee. He recently republished the article, and it has some interesting notes.
First, and most important, vouchers don’t improve student outcomes:
In 2010, the Center on Education Policy reviewed 10 years of voucher research and action and found that vouchers had no strong effect on student achievement. The most positive results come from Milwaukee County’s voucher program, but the effects were small and limited to only a few grades.
It seems to me that if we’re going to “add another arrow to our quiver” as voucher advocate Sen. Brian Kelsey said in the Education Committee recently, that arrow should be an effective one. With vouchers, Kelsey is aiming a broken arrow and hoping it still somehow works.
Next, vouchers perpetuate the status quo rather than providing new “opportunity:”
For example a critical study of the Milwaukee program found that it overwhelmingly helped those already receiving education through private means. Two thirds of Milwaukee students using the voucher program in the city already attended private schools. Instead of increasing mobility for low-income students, the program primarily served to perpetuate status quo.
Vouchers can make things worse:
It’s often difficult to determine the quality of the schools serving voucher students because private schools are not required to make public the same amount of student data as public schools. An example of this occurring can be found right next door in Louisiana where approximately 2250 students were recently found to be attending failing schools through the state’s voucher program.
So, a move toward vouchers is once again at hand in the Tennessee General Assembly. Legislation creating a voucher program narrowly passed the Senate Education Committee, gaining the minimum-needed 5 votes in a recent meeting.
As legislators continue to examine the proposed program, they should take note of similar programs in other states. Vouchers have not historically worked to improve student achievement, they sometimes make matters worse, and there’s no reason to believe the Tennessee “opportunity” will prove any different than in other places in the country.
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport