JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 9, 2010
Milwaukee is home to the most extensive private school voucher program in the country. New research, conducted by voucher advocates, shows... that the program doesn't improve the education of students at all. AEI's Frederick M. Hess explains:
The University of Arkansas School of Education, home to my good friends Patrick Wolf and Jay Greene, yesterday released new research showing that students in Milwaukee’s two-decade-old voucher program (the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, MPCP) “scored at similar levels as their peers not participating in the school choice program.”
Wolf, who has led this effort as well as the federally endorsed evaluation of the D.C. voucher program, summarized, “Voucher students are showing average rates of achievement gain similar to their public school peers.” Translation: when it comes to test scores, students with vouchers are performing no differently than other kids. (It is worth noting that MPCP students are being educated more cheaply than district school students.)
Education is an issue that does not divide very cleanly across ideological lines, and it's heartening to see reality-based conservatives conducting and acknowledging research that undercuts their point of view. For years, vouchers has been the conservative movement's one-word reply to any question involving education. (Which is not to say that conservative education experts are monomaniacally pro-voucher, but that conservatives in general have viewed support for vouchers as the only thing they need to know or say about the subject.) It would be nice to see conservatives and Republicans evolve a broader understanding of the possibilities of education reform, as this appears to be an issue where bipartisan cooperation with a strongly pro-reform Obama administration ought to be possible.