Vouchers and the Rising Tide

April 7, 2010

“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!

Attack of the Killer Vouchers!

February 2, 2010

Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Vouchers”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Yesterday we learned about the horrible massacre of the innocents in Milwaukee Public Schools. Confronted with evidence showing substantially higher graduation rates in private schools participating in the city’s voucher program than in public schools, a public school official cited “mortality” as an excuse.

No doubt it won’t be long before they announce that Milwaukee public school students are dying in such large numbers because of the voucher program!

You doubt it? The journal Environmental Science and Technology has already published an article – carefully peer reviewed using the same totally neutral and non-corrupted system they use for all the other climate science – finding that school vouchers cause global warming. You see, vouchers irresponsibly permit parents to choose whether and how far to drive their students to school, thus recklessly increasing the levels of the dangerous chemical globalwarmic hysteriphate in the atmosphere, further sapping the purity of our precious, precious bodily fluids.

And since it’s already an established scientific fact that global warming causes everything bad, it follows as night follows day that vouchers, by causing global warming, cause mortality in Milwaukee public schools.

Now if only we could find a way to protect our children from this threat . . . if only there were an education policy that were proven to improve school safety by moving students from less safe schools into more safe schools. Hmmm…

HT Dan Lips

Twin Editorials on Milwaukee Vouchers

June 4, 2009

Weasley Twins

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This morning the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online both take on the covert effort to destroy Milwaukee vouchers by political subterfuge.

From the Journal:

Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass “reforms” designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

From NRO:

Last week, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved a series of auditing, accrediting, and instructional requirements that will force successful voucher schools to shift resources away from classrooms and into administration. Several schools will have to comply with new bilingual-education mandates, even though many immigrant parents choose those schools precisely because they emphasize the rapid acquisition of English instead of native-language maintenance.

Both editorials also mention looming cuts in funding for vouchers, even though the program saves huge taxpayer dollars and the bloated government schools are getting increases in funding. Both editorials cite Robert Costrell’s calculation that the difference between private school efficiency and public school bloat has saved taxpayers $180 million – though only NRO mentions Costrell by name.

And NRO also gets a gold star for this:

Researchers say that the program is beginning to show systemic effects. In other words, it doesn’t merely help its participants. It also gives a lift to non-voucher students because the pressure of competition has forced public schools to improve.

C’mon, Wall Street Journal, get on the ball!

PJM Column on Milwaukee Study

March 30, 2009

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This morning, Pajamas Media carries my column on the results of the new Milwaukee studies released last week by the School Choice Demonstration Project:

It’s bad enough that everyone seems to be ignoring the program’s positive impact on public schools. About four-fifths of the students are still in public schools. Why look only at the results for the voucher students, only one-fifth of the total? If you had a medical treatment that would help four-fifths of all patients suffering from some horrible disease — and what else can you call the present state of our education system but a horrible disease? — that would be considered a fantastic result.

But it gets worse. These results don’t just show that the program improves education for students in public schools. They also indicate that the program improves education for the students who are using vouchers.

Correction on MJS and the “Funding Flaw”

December 12, 2008


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Yesterday I posted an analysis of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. The article reported as fact, not opinion, that the Milwaukee voucher program has a “funding flaw” because it fails to pay the Milwaukee public schools to teach students whom the Milwaukee public schools do not teach.

The occasion for the article was a debate over whether it was still true, as it had been in previous years, that the Milwaukee voucher program increases costs for local property taxpayers – this is what people had always meant in the past when they talked about the “funding flaw” in the program.

The claim made by the local voucher movement that the program no longer increased costs for property taxpayers seemed solid to me at the time, and the voucher opponents quoted in the article tacitly accepted it by desperately trying to change the subject. To my knowledge, nobody else had disputed the claim. So I reported the claim as true.

Robert Costrell, who knows more about this than anyone, now says he thinks the claim that vouchers no longer cost extra in local property taxes is incorrect. Apparently it comes down to whether a certain element in the formula varies by enrollment or not.

So I’ve attached a correction to the original post, and I apologize that I didn’t wait longer to hear from more people before reporting the claim as true.

That said, the bulk of my post was on another subject (the attempt by some Milwaukee politicians to use the voucher program to fleece state taxpayers, and MJS’s docility in reporting their obviously specious claims as true) and on that subject I stand by everything I wrote. I only hope my carelessness on this other point doesn’t help get MJS off the hook for its irresponsibility.

(Edited to more clearly differentiate Costrell’s thoughts from my own.)

(UPDATE: Bob Costrell’s new analysis is here.)

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