"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Part 2: TN Voucher "Plan" Features Big Government with No Fiscal or Program Accountability

As promised in Part 1 yesterday, Gov. Bill Lee announced his latest planned school voucher scam in Nashville.  Alongside him was fellow unholy-rolling governor, Sarah H. Sanders of Arkansas infamy. 

Today I would like to present some research findings that clearly show the negative effects of school voucher programs on student achievement and student well-being. We know that Bill Lee and his Tennessee Taliban legislative supermajority don't, or can't, read research, but I am hoping that someone will translate the findings into something they might understand: Them voucher thangs ain't workin'.

Some clips are below from Brookings, which includes links to the research studies, themselves:

Part of the push for ESA vouchers comes from the lingering frustration over the pandemic-era school closures and concern over learning loss as measured by standardized tests. But on that question, the last decade of research on traditional vouchers strongly suggests they actually lower academic achievement. In Louisiana, for example, two separate research teams found negative academic impacts as high as -0.4 standard deviations—extremely large by education policy standards—with declines that persisted for years. Those results were published across top journals for empirical public and education policy. Similar results in Indiana found impacts closer to -0.15 standard deviations. To put these negative impacts in perspective: Current estimates of COVID-19’s impact on academic trajectories hover around -0.25 standard deviations.

 Another link, with Executive Summary below:

Executive Summary
Vouchers to pay for students to attend private schools continue to command public attention. The current administration has proposed vouchers in its budget, and more than half of states are operating or have proposed voucher programs. Four recent rigorous studies—in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio—used different research designs and reached the same result: on average, students that use vouchers to attend private schools do less well on tests than similar students that do not attend private schools. The Louisiana and Indiana studies offer some hints that negative effects may diminish over time. Whether effects ever will become positive is unclear. Test scores are not the only education outcome and some observers have downplayed them, citing older evidence that voucher programs increase high school graduation and college-going. We lack evidence that the current generation of voucher programs will yield these longer-term outcomes. We also lack evidence of how public schools and private schools differ in their instructional and teaching strategies that would explain negative effects on test scores. Both questions should be high on the research agenda.

From Time Magazine, with a clip below:

And it’s not just the academic results that call into question any rhetoric around opportunities created by vouchers. Private schools can decline to admit children for any reason. One example of that is tied to the latest culture wars around LGBTQ youth, and strengthened in current voucher legislation. In Florida, a voucher-funded school made national news last summer when it banned LGBTQ children. In Indiana, pre-pandemic estimates showed that more than $16 million in taxpayer funding had already gone to voucher schools with explicit anti-LGBTQ admissions rules.

Voucher schools also rarely enroll children with special academic needs. Special education children tend to need more resources than vouchers provide, which can be a problem in public schools too. But public schools are at least obliged under federal law to enroll and assist special needs children—something private schools can and do avoid.

When we look at all the challenges to accessing education with these programs it’s clear that actually winning admission to a particular private school is not about parental school choice. It’s the school’s choice.


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