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Why School Vouchers Should

be an Option for All Students

Critical Thinking Paper

Robert Padmore
CAP - Blue Group
3/18/18 - 5/7/18
Robert Padmore
Critical Thinking Paper
Blue 3/18/18

Many parents believe that careful selection of schools has a significant impact on their

children’s education. There are many options when it comes to choosing schooling depending

on the type of education one is looking for. The ability for a student and his/her parents to choose

how the student will be educated is referred to as ​school choice​ (EdChoice.org). In the United

States, there are two predominant types of schooling offered: public and private. Public schools

are funded by the government through taxpayer dollars and public schooling is offered to

virtually everyone (EdChoice.org). Private schools are independent and self-funded systems

which are only held to certain standards set by state governments (EdChoice.org). Parents of

students who attend private schools must still pay tax dollars that fund public schools, which

don’t convey to private education costs.

Economist Milton Friedman is credited with launching the system that is now known as

school vouchers​ or ​education vouchers​. In 1955, Friedman’s paper ​The Role of Government in

Education​ argued for the use of public dollars to fund private school tuition, arguing that

enhanced competition among schools would lead to increased student achievement and

decreased costs (NCSL). School choice programs are public (sometimes privately) funded

certificates that are given to students for alternate forms of education (EdChoice.org). Education

vouchers are certificates funded by the government allowing money collected for the public

school system to be reallocated to paying private school tuition, and voucher programs are a

subset of choice programs (EdChoice.org). Vermont and Maine have had voucher programs

supporting private school education for around 140 years. Their programs were created to

provide affordable education for students who lived far from a public school to go to a much
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closer private school. After the publication of ​The Role of Government in Education, ​Americans

in the 1960s used school vouchers as a means of segregating schools. Consequently, policy

concerning vouchers was changed and repealed until 1989, when the Wisconsin state legislature

passed the first “modern voucher program targeting students from low income households in the

Milwaukee School District” (NCSL). After this, it was not until 2011 that Indiana became the

first state to have a statewide voucher program. Currently, 27 of the 50 states have choice

programs set in place for students, but only 14 states have traditional voucher programs (NCSL).

The current secretary of education Betsy Devos plans on reallocating around 5% of the

Department of Education’s budget towards school choice to support minority students failing in

public schools, but Devos’ agenda is being rejected by congress (Strauss, Valerie, et al.).

“Students from low-income households, students attending failing schools, students with

disabilities and those living in rural areas are the most common groups targeted in school

voucher programs” because the state governments attempt to solve issues like the achievement

and opportunity gap (NCSL). Not all students have access to the options provided by voucher

systems because only a certain demographic is prioritized for voucher eligibility. Voucher

programs are implemented by individual states, not the federal government. In order for all

students to have school vouchers available nationwide, state legislatures must pass legislation

allowing a voucher system to be available for all students because vouchers will improve

academic success among students, will have a positive fiscal impact on taxpayers and public

schools, and will promote socioeconomic diversity in school systems.

School vouchers provide students with the opportunity of attending a private school

instead of their assigned public school. Vouchers are generally available only to families with
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incomes below certain poverty thresholds (NCSL). Since performance of most public schools in

depressed economic communities is generally lower than public schools in affluent communities,

the voucher systems enables students from economically depressed areas to leave their assigned

districts to attend private and more affluent schools (Eden), thus increasing students’ academic

achievement and success. Most families cannot afford to send their children to attend private

schools. The average tuition for private schools in the U.S. is $10,302 per year (Private School

Review). Most low-income families are unable to pay that amount to send their child to private

school, even if their child is otherwise qualified academically. In districts where voucher

programs have been introduced, students have seen higher levels of achievement (g.e. graduation

rates, test scores, college admission rates, etc.) (Merrifield, Gray). Milwaukee and Washington,

D.C. are two cities where voucher programs have been implemented and tested (NCSL). Studies

of Milwaukee and D.C. school districts “found higher graduation rates among voucher students

than among public school students” (Kober, Usher 10). Furthermore, a study examining the

Washington, D.C. voucher program found that “females and higher achieving students did

appear to have higher levels of reading achievement if they received a voucher” (Kober, Usher

9). The Washington, D.C. and Milwaukee studies show that not only are voucher students more

likely to graduate, but some students showed better performance in reading. A study done in

Florida examining school competition after the implementation of voucher programs resulted in

better performance from the program. Specifically, they found “greater degrees of competition

are associated with greater improvements in students’ test scores following the introduction of

the program” (Figlio, Hart 2). These results suggest voucher programs have the ability to
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positively enhance academic achievement as measured by graduation rates, reading

comprehension, and test scores.

School voucher programs have financial benefits for affected taxpayers and districts

funding the vouchers. A student’s use of a voucher to attend private school implies that a ”school

district no longer needs to pay the instructional costs associated with that student, but it does not

lose all of its per-student revenue… Thus, school choice produces a positive fiscal impact for

school districts as well as for state budgets” (Aud 5). Furthermore, “in nearly every school

choice program, the dollar value of the voucher or scholarship is less than or equal to the state’s

formula spending per student” (Aud 5). Voucher programs therefore reduce costs because

districts no longer need to pay associated costs for that student. Vouchers themselves are cheaper

than the cost allocated for an individual student enrolled in public schools. One researcher

concluded savings for a students’ schooling can be realized by “by tapping into the private

school market, which is generally charging families less than the current amount spent to educate

a student in public schools, and by fostering more competition in the education marketplace,

which tends to restrain cost growth for all schools” (Spalding 1). DeAngelis and Trivitt, from the

Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, examined the elimination of the

Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a program that grants vouchers to eligible students in

Louisiana, and found “only 2 to 7 of the 69 school districts would benefit from the elimination of

the program” (2). For each district affected from the loss of the LSP, “the average outcome

would be a financial loss of about $1,500 per returning voucher student in 2016. In each

scenario, we find that over 80% of student transfers would result in a financial loss for the local

district.” (2). If existing voucher programs were to be eliminated, it would cost the public school
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system more money to re-enroll these students. Voucher programs are not only less expensive

than the amount school districts allocate to each student, but they save taxpayers and districts

money that can be used for other purposes.

Voucher programs enhance racial and socioeconomic integration into schools that are

otherwise not very diverse. Voucher programs are mostly targeted towards students of

low-income families and students of color who are underperforming in their current schools

(NCSL). Not only do these vouchers provide these students the opportunity to choose other

school options, but vouchers allow students who would otherwise not be eligible or financially

able to attend private schools to attend and contribute to the enhanced diversity of that school. .

This argument is examined throughout several studies done with existing voucher programs.

Egalite, Mills, and Wolf examined the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) and the effect on

diversifying its respective schools. They concluded that “the vast majority (82%) of LSP

transfers have reduced racial segregation in the voucher students’ former public schools” and

“LSP transfers have marginally increased segregation in the participating private schools”.

Forester also concluded racial integration was enhanced after analyzing the Cleveland, Ohio

voucher program. In the study, Forster found “private schools participating in Cleveland’s

voucher program were 18 points less segregated than Cleveland public schools on the

segregation index” (7). Forster later states that the findings from his research “confirms the

findings of previous research in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington D.C. that private schools

participating in voucher programs are substantially less segregated than public schools in the

same cities” (7). Racially integrated schools aim to close the achievement gap seen in suppressed

economic communities, expose others to new perspectives through diversity in learning, and lead
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to improved cognitive skills including critical thinking and problem solving (Cordova-Cobo,

Fox, Wells). School vouchers countrywide will aid to desegregate schools and provide racial,

geographic, and socioeconomic integration into more private schools.

Those who oppose school vouchers argue that vouchers are a clear violation of the first

amendment concerning the separation of church and state. The argument pertains to the idea that

vouchers from the government could fund non secular private schools (NCSL). While vouchers

fund tuition to religious private schools, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in Zelman vs.

Simmons-Harris that the voucher program in Ohio did not offend the Constitutional separation of

church and state. The Supreme Court ruled first, “the incidental advancement of a religious

mission, or the perceived endorsement of a religious message, is reasonably attributable to the

individual aid recipients not the government, whose role ends with the disbursement of benefits”

(United States Supreme Court). This statement clarifies that the government's role in funding a

student’s education ends when the funds are transferred to the recipients of the voucher; the

student’s family decides which school the voucher will fund. It was further ruled that “the instant

program is one of true private choice, consistent with the Mueller line of cases, and thus

constitutional. It is neutral in all respects towards religion, and is part of Ohio’s general and

multifaceted undertaking to provide educational opportunities to children in a failed school

district.” (United States Supreme Court). For these reasons determined in Zelman vs

Simmons-Harris, vouchers are constitutional and therefore can legally be supported by the

government.

School voucher programs is a topic that is strongly debated and can be very emotionally

charged due to personal implications. Proponents of voucher programs argue the merits of the
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program include enhanced academic achievement, socioeconomic and racial diversification, and

the economic benefits to the taxpayer and the government. Research in these areas provides

compelling data to support these claims, but fails to validate the effects on a larger scale. Given

that only 14 states have active voucher programs, it is difficult to rationalize whole support of the

program on a national basis. However, studies performed in the 14 states on various indicators of

achievement and success do provide compelling data to engage in further research and

assessment of outcomes in order to determine if voucher programs are beneficial in certain

locations, populations, or under specific economic or geographic conditions.


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Critical Thinking Paper
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Works Cited

Aud, Susan L. “School Choice by the Number - the Fiscal Effect of the School Choice Program.”

School Choice Issues in Depth​, Apr. 2007. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Education-by-the-Numbers-Fiscal-Effect

-of-School-Choice-Programs.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Average Private School Tuition Costs." Private School Review,

www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/private-school-cost-by-state/states.

Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

DeAngelis, Corey A., and Julie R. Trivitt. “Squeezing the Public School Districts: The Fiscal

Effects of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program.” ​Uni. of Arkansas EDRE

Working Paper Series​, 11 Aug. 2016, pp. 1-27,

www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2016/08/squeezing-the-public-school-districts-the-fiscal

-effects-of-eliminating-the-louisiana-scholarship-program.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Egalite, Anna J., et al. “The Impact of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on Racial Segregation

in Louisiana Schools.” ​SSRN​, RELX Group, 29 Feb. 2016,

papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2738785. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Figlio, David N., and Cassandra M.D. Hart. “Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School

Vouchers.” ​American Economic Journal​, vol. 6, no. 1, 2014, pp. 133-56.

Foster, Greg. “Segregation Levels in Cleveland Public Schools and the Cleveland Voucher

Program.” ​School Choice Issues in the State​, Aug. 2006, pp. 1-21. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Segregation-Levels-in-Cleveland-Public

-Schools-and-the-Cleveland-Voucher-Program.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.


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“Interactive Guide to School Choice Laws.” ​National Conference of State Legislatures​,

www.ncsl.org/research/education/interactive-guide-to-school-choice.aspx. Accessed 8

Mar. 2018.

“School Choice: Vouchers.” ​National Conference of State Legaslatures​, 2018,

www.ncsl.org/research/education/school-choice-vouchers.aspx. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

Spalding, Jeff. “Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Morey?”

EdChoice.org​, pp. 1-41. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-School-Voucher-Audit-Do-Publicly

-Funded-Private-School-Choice-Programs-Save-Money.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Strauss, Valerie, et al. “DeVos Seeks Cuts from Education Department to Support School

Choice.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Feb. 2018,

www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/02/12/devos-seeks-massive-cuts-fro

m-education-department-to-support-school-choice/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.15eefd12

b6fa.

United States Supreme Court, editor. “Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et

al. v. Simmons-Harris et al.” ​Cornell Uni. School of Law​,

www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-1751.ZS.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Supreme

Usher, Alexandra, and Nancy Kober. “Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of

Major Developments and Research.” ​Center on Education Policy​, 2001, pp. 0-55.
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Wells, Amy Stuart, et al. “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All

Students.” ​The Century Foundation​, 9 Feb. 2016,

tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-stude

nts/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

“What is School Choice?” ​EdChoice​, 2018,

www.edchoice.org/school-choice/what-is-school-choice/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.


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Annotated Bibliography

“About Charter Schools.” ​Publiccharters.org​, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools,

www.publiccharters.org/about-charter-schools. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Defined what

charter schools are and how they are funded. Helped to differentiate the public schools

and charter schools and explained the parameters charter schools have..

Aud, Susan L. “School Choice by the Number - the Fiscal Effect of the School Choice Program.”

School Choice Issues in Depth​, Apr. 2007. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Education-by-the-Numbers-Fiscal-Effect

-of-School-Choice-Programs.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Research Article discusses the

fiscal effects of choice programs (like voucher programs). Determined that voucher

programs save school districts money because voucher are cheaper that the public school

funds allocated for each student and virtually no money is lost from the school system.

Average Private School Tuition Costs." Private School Review,

www.privateschoolreview.com/tuition-stats/private-school-cost-by-state/states.

Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Provided a statistic about average tuition to

private schools.

Chingos, Matthew M., and Paul E. Peterson. “Experimentally Estimated Impacts of School

Vouchers on College Enrollment and Degree Attainment.” ​ScienceDirect​, 2014,

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047272714002461. Accessed 19 Mar.

2018. Article abstract; article discusses whether or not voucher recipients have better

college enrollment chances. Research concludes that voucher students are more likely to

be enrolled in college or attain a degree.


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DeAngelis, Corey A., and Julie R. Trivitt. “Squeezing the Public School Districts: The Fiscal

Effects of Eliminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program.” ​Uni. of Arkansas EDRE

Working Paper Series​, 11 Aug. 2016, pp. 1-27,

www.uaedreform.org/downloads/2016/08/squeezing-the-public-school-districts-the-fiscal

-effects-of-eliminating-the-louisiana-scholarship-program.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Examined the effects of terminating the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Results found

that ending the program would have negative financial effects on the school system, and

that school vouchers are cheaper that funds used by the school systems.

Eden, Max. “Vouchers Improve Student Outcomes and School Diversity.” ​Real Clear

Education​, 15 Aug. 2017,

www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2017/08/15/vouchers_improve_student_outcomes_

and_school_diversity_110189.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Article about the effect

vouchers have on diversifying and improving schools. The article references studies that

support the authors claim and refute the arguments from the opposing point of view.

Egalite, Anna J., et al. “The Impact of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on Racial Segregation

in Louisiana Schools.” ​SSRN​, RELX Group, 29 Feb. 2016,

papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2738785. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Journal

Article Abstract; discusses racial stratification seen in the Louisiana Scholarship

Program. Findings conclude that voucher programs desegregate schools and create more

diversity in the school system.


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“Empirical Research Literature on the Effects of School Choice.” ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/school-choice/empirical-research-literature-on-the-effects-of-school-c

hoice/#academic students. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Collection of literature in support of

school vouchers, organized by subject.

Figlio, David N., and Cassandra M.D. Hart. “Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School

Vouchers.” ​American Economic Journal​, vol. 6, no. 1, 2014, pp. 133-56. Article on

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Concludes that competition between private and

public schools after the program was introduced showed an increase in student test

scores.

Foster, Greg. “Segregation Levels in Cleveland Public Schools and the Cleveland Voucher

Program.” ​School Choice Issues in the State​, Aug. 2006, pp. 1-21. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Segregation-Levels-in-Cleveland-Public

-Schools-and-the-Cleveland-Voucher-Program.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Journal

Article about Cleveland voucher program and how it is diversifying schools in Ohio.

Results show that schools are becoming more diverse and other voucher program cities

are seeing the same results.

“Interactive Guide to School Choice Laws.” ​National Conference of State Legislatures​,

www.ncsl.org/research/education/interactive-guide-to-school-choice.aspx. Accessed 8

Mar. 2018. Interactive guide giving a description of all states and their school choice

laws. Also described different forms of school choice and how each differed from the

other.
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Merrifield, John, and Nathan L. Gray. “An Evaluation of the CEO Horizon, 1998-2008,

Edgewood Tuition Voucher Program.” ​Journal of School Choice​, vol. 3, no. 414,

www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15582150903430764. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.

Evaluation of Edgewood voucher program. Results find that the program shows an

increase in academic achievement and success, as well as community environment

improvements.

Mills, Jonathan N., and Patrick J. Wolf. “The Effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on

Student Achievement after Three Years.” ​Louisiana Scholarship Program Evaluation

Report​, no. 7, 26 June 2017, pp. 1-53. Article evaluating the academic achievement seen

in the LSP over a large span of time. Results are show to be insignificant, but both

negative and positive results were received.

“School Choice: Vouchers.” ​National Conference of State Legaslatures​, 2018,

www.ncsl.org/research/education/school-choice-vouchers.aspx. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

General overview of school vouchers. Explained origin, history, and applications.

“School Voucher.” ​Wikipedia​, Wikimedia, 14 Mar. 2018,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Provided general,

common knowledge about what a school voucher is. Also provided a brief history and

information about voucher programs enacted in the U.S..

Spalding, Jeff. “Do Publicly Funded Private School Choice Programs Save Morey?”

EdChoice.org​, pp. 1-41. ​EdChoice​,

www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-School-Voucher-Audit-Do-Publicly

-Funded-Private-School-Choice-Programs-Save-Money.pdf. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.


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Article on voucher programs and review on how much money they save school districts

and taxpayers. Found that vouchers save the governments thousands, and reduce the

amount of tax that is needed.

Strauss, Valerie, et al. “DeVos Seeks Cuts from Education Department to Support School

Choice.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Feb. 2018,

www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2018/02/12/devos-seeks-massive-cuts-fro

m-education-department-to-support-school-choice/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.15eefd12

b6fa. News article on Betsy Devos’ stance concerning school vouchers. Found that

Devos’ plan is to expand the budget for school choice and take away from after school

program.

Strong, Micheal. “The Freedom to Innovate and Future Innovation.” ​Cato Unbound​, Cato

Institute, 9 Apr. 2008,

www.cato-unbound.org/2008/04/09/michael-strong/freedom-innovate-future-education.

Accessed 6 Mar. 2018. Article on how vouchers and charter schools will evolve in

America’s future. Gave arguments supporting charter schools and discussed how public

schools are on track to be reformed. Also referenced how other countries approach

education.

United States Supreme Court, editor. “Zelman, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Ohio, et

al. v. Simmons-Harris et al.” ​Cornell Uni. School of Law​,

www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-1751.ZS.html. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Supreme

Court case defending school vouchers. Case ruled that vouchers were constitutional and
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did not offend the separation of church and state. Provided by Cornell’s School of Law

website.

Usher, Alexandra, and Nancy Kober. “Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of

Major Developments and Research.” ​Center on Education Policy​, 2001, pp. 0-55. Article

reviewing previous research pertaining to school vouchers and programs. Stated a general

overview of all of the information, and provided evidence supporting academic

achievement in voucher recipients.

Wells, Amy Stuart, et al. “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All

Students.” ​The Century Foundation​, 9 Feb. 2016,

tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-stude

nts/. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018. Article evaluating how diverse and inclusive schools are

diffirent from less diverse schools. Diverse schools enhance cognitive skills of students

and make them more socially aware.

“What is School Choice?” ​EdChoice​, 2018,

www.edchoice.org/school-choice/what-is-school-choice/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

Explained and defined what school choice was. Described each type of school choice and

it purpose, and what it funded.