Vouchers and the Rising Tide

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

I haven’t had a chance to read the details yet, but from the executive summary of the new results released today by the School Choice Demonstration Project, it looks like vouchers have done a good job of improving education for all students in the city of Milwaukee.

What? That’s not the way you heard it?

Of course not. Because the new result, taken in isolation from other information, simply says that after two years, the voucher students are making learning improvements about the same as public school students. The scores for the voucher students are higher, but the difference is not statistically certain.

However, let’s plug that into the larger universe of information. We know – from the very same research project – that vouchers are improving education in Milwaukee public schools. The positive incentives of competition and the improved matching of student needs to school strengths are causing public schools to deliver a better education.

So if the voucher students and the public school students are doing about the same, and vouchers are improving results for public school students, it follows that vouchers are improving results for everybody.

That, of course, is the consistent finding of a large body of research. The overwhelming research consensus is that vouchers improve public schools.

Also, let’s not forget that in several previous longitudinal studies, the results from the first one or two years were similar – the voucher students ahead, but the difference not statistically certain – and in those cases, in later years the difference always became statistically certain. It just took the accumulation of more data to reach the high bar of statistical certainty.

So here’s a toast to the great news that vouchers in Milwaukee are making everybody better off!

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3 Responses to Vouchers and the Rising Tide

  1. allen says:

    Pieces like this ought to prominently feature the per student budget of the voucher programs as a means of broadening their appeal. There are more constituencies in favor of vouchers then policy wonks and parents but they’ve got to be made aware of their stake in the issue.

    The municipal unions, for instance, are taking it on the chin as the education establishment wrings a few more dollars out of state budgets. Could they be convinced to support a “common sense” policy that focuses funding on the goal freeing up tax money to hire cops and fireman rather then pay useless district functionaries?

  2. Greg Forster says:

    The School Choice Demonstration Project has already done a big, comprehensive fiscal analysis of the Milwaukee program.

    Unfortuantely, the fiscal story is complicated in Milwaukee by the fact that state legislators (against the very strong objections of Milwaukee school choice advocates) have jiggered the funding formula in such a way that the program effectively redistributes wealth from the city of Milwaukee to the state budget. The city doesn’t see the savings; they’re sucked up by the rest of the state. The city is actually fiscally hurt by the program. Of course it’s not the vouchers’ fault that the state sucks up the savings, but that’s how it gets portrayed.

  3. [...] Vouchers are improving education in Milwaukee by improving public schools as well as helping voucher recipients find private alternatives that meet their needs, argues Greg Forster. He cites research here (pdf) and here. [...]

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