Report: Indiana vouchers a bad deal for students, public

A report released this week by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability puts 28 pages of research and data behind what public education advocates have been saying for years: Indiana’s school voucher program is a bad deal for the public and it’s not providing academic benefits to students.

Drawing on published studies and details about the Indiana program, the report addresses the question of whether private school choice in Indiana is leading to better educational outcomes for children and whether it’s an efficient use of public funds at a time when state budgets are constrained.

“As it turns out, the answer is no, when ideology is put aside and evidence of what has worked to enhance student achievement is used as a barometer,” it says.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability is a Chicago-based think tank that generally supports progressive policies. Ralph Martire, the center’s executive director, and Indiana legislators who have opposed vouchers presented the findings in a Statehouse news conference.

Jason Bedrick, a policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, attacked the report in an article posted later Tuesday, accusing it of using data selectively and misrepresenting school-choice studies.

The CTBA report relies heavily on a large nationwide study of public, charter and private schools by University of Illinois professors Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, published in 2006. The research “clearly shows that students who attend traditional, K-12 public schools outperform students who attend both charter schools and private religious schools,” it says.

The Lubienskis later published their findings in a book, “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.”

The report also says none of the independent studies of longstanding voucher programs – in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. – found any statistical evidence that voucher students performed better than students in public schools.

Voucher supporters will no doubt disagree with that. The Cato Institute’s Bedrick, for example, cites several of the same studies referenced by CTBA but draws different conclusions from them.

The report shows how vouchers are spreading school spending thin by providing more state dollars for students whose parents had no intention of sending them to public schools. If the voucher program keeps growing at the same rate, it says, the cost could reach nearly a half billion dollars by 2017.

A recent report by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy suggests the rapid growth that voucher programs have seen in recent years may be leveling off.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability says there is nothing wrong with parents choosing to send their children to private schools and religious schools. But if private schools don’t consistently do a better job than public schools, it says, that’s not a choice that the public should subsidize.

“It appears that the sole policy justification for the Indiana Choice Legislation is ideological,” it says. “That is, choice is supported for its own sake, irrespective of the fact that choice cannot be expected to improve either the overall education system or student achievement, and indeed may be counterproductive.”


7 thoughts on “Report: Indiana vouchers a bad deal for students, public

  1. So, what’s wrong with ideological motives? Shouldn’t parents have the right to choose without having to pay a second tuition?

  2. It’s not that I (Jason Bedrick) reached a different conclusion than the CTBA about those studies — the authors of those studies reached a different conclusion. As I noted in the blog post you linked to, Dr. Patrick Wolf wrote: “school choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes.”

    The CTBA misled the public by reporting the year 3 results of a 5-year study, but not the final results. And they ignored numerous studies from respected researchers at Harvard, Princeton, the Brookings Institution, etc.

  3. If you are going to subsidize private education, than the outcomes should be consistently and markedly better. They are not.

    Choice does not work as advertised.

  4. Parents have a choice! The problem is the FUNDING of that choice and the end game of school choice and vouchers which is the DESTRUCTION of public educaiton and profits for private operators! Feel free to read up on the end game of “school choice”. School choice is a BRAND NAME for privatizaiton and nothing more. In June 1995, the economist Milton Friedman wrote an article for the Washington Post promoting the use of public education funds for private schools as a way to transfer the nation’s public school systems to the private sector. “Vouchers,” he wrote, “are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system.” The article was republished by “free market” think tanks, including the Cato Institute and the Hoover Institution, with the title “Public Schools: Make Them Private.” READ IT!

    While Friedman has promoted vouchers for decades, most famously in his masterwork Free to Choose, the story of how public funds are actually being transferred to private, often religious, schools is a study in the ability of a few wealthy families, along with a network of right-wing think tanks, to create one of the most successful “astroturf” campaigns money could buy. Rather than openly championing dismantling the public school system, they promote bringing market incentives and competition into education as a way to fix failing schools, particularly in low-income Black and Latino communities. But time and time again, it isn’t the poverty stricken using these government subsidies, they are parents that already pay high tuition costs (because they can afford them) to send their kids to a $18,000 a year private school like Park Tudor in Indy. Profits and Preachers over the Public…the Indiana way.

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