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					Privatization and the History of
    Vouchers in Education
 Three Educational Innovations

• Private School Choice: Vouchers
• Public School Choice: Charter
           Questions to Ask:
1) Who promotes these programs? What are
   the ideas that shape these innovations?
2) Who benefits from these programs? What
   is the effect on social inequality? What is
   its effect on quality of teaching and
   learning in school classrooms?
• Competitive private enterprise is likely to
  be far more efficient--producing the most at
  the lowest cost--than government-run
• People will spend their money at the
  business where they get the best product for
  the smallest cost.
• 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
“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 student‟s
  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) 83:2.
     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
• All aimed at low-income students
• Vouchers ranged from $1,200-$4,000
  Free-Enterprise Supporters of
• Private sector works better than public
• Competition breeds innovative programs
  and the diffusion of best practices in
  teaching and management.
• 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 options
• Parents who seek religious education for
  their children
• Parents whose children already attend
  private schools
“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
• Doubt a market system can be
  equitable and efficient
• Vouchers would require: well-
  informed consumers who have equal
  bargaining power and a variety of
  schools, with diverse programs and
  well-measured quality
    Institutional Opponents of
• Teachers‟ unions: concerned about the
  loss of jobs, benefits, and pay
• Private schools: concerned about
  government regulation (special
  education, standardized tests)
“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 district.
• 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
• Mandates greater accountability, which
  makes private schools more wary of
       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 parents?
    Are Vouchers Constitutional?
• In Cleveland in 1999, 96% of voucher
  students were enrolled in religious private
• 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
• Private schools in Cleveland admitted
  voucher students without regard to race or
   Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris

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
• The program is neutral in regards to
  religion, allowing all schools in the district
  to participate, both religious and non-
• This is a “broader undertaking to assist poor
  children in failed schools, not. . .an
  endorsement of religious schooling in
          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
             Colorado, 2003
• Colorado first in the nation to pass a school
  voucher law as a result of the Supreme
  Court decision
• $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
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
• 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 York).
• As a comparison, a Tennessee experiment
  to reduce class size helped African-
  American students far more.
     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 nurse‟s office, a cafeteria, and
• Private schools rarely have programs for
  non-English speakers or students with
  special needs (disabilities, learning
            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
 Why Vouchers May Not Matter
• High dropout rates from voucher programs
• Little gain in student achievement or
  educational quality
• Vouchers are low subsidies, comparable to
  tuition costs
• With greater push to accountability, private
  schools may not want to participate
          Henig‟s 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

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