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Look Deeper into School Voucher Outcomes

April 28, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

The fourth-year results of the experimental evaluation of the
Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) just came out — and the
effects on math test scores are negative once again. So what went
wrong in Louisiana?

Regulations are likely responsible. Here’s why.

Private schools decide whether to participate in voucher
programs each year. Lower-quality private schools are more likely
to accept heavy packages of voucher program regulations because
they are the most in need of additional revenues.

Heavy regulations also
mean fewer options for families in Louisiana.

The unintended consequence of attaching onerous regulations to
school choice programs is that the best private schools will be
more likely to turn down the voucher offer. The bad news for
Louisiana is that the LSP has several burdensome regulations.

The LSP requires schools to admit students at random, administer
the state’s standardized tests, and maintain what the state
considers a “quality curriculum.” Participating private
schools must also accept the voucher amount as full payment.

This hefty package of regulations could unintentionally reduce
the average quality of participating private schools — which
could compromise the effectiveness of the program. And
there’s plenty of evidence for this theory.

Negative effects from the voucher program were largely driven by
lower-quality private schools. Students who won the lottery to go
to private schools with the highest levels of tuition and
enrollment — two proxies for school quality — did not
experience reductions in academic achievement. In fact, the
researchers found that private schools in the top tercile of
enrollment actually increased math test scores by 68 percent of a
standard deviation in the third year.

Heavy regulations also mean fewer options for families in
Louisiana. Only a third of the private schools in Louisiana chose
to participate in the program in the first year, while over twice
that proportion of private schools choose to participate in
programs with fewer regulations.

A study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute also found that
private school participation rates tend to be lower in programs
with higher regulatory burdens. And two survey experiments have
found that randomly assigned regulations substantially reduce
private school leaders’ reported willingness to participate in
hypothetical voucher programs.

But the news isn’t all bad in Louisiana. Competition from the
program led to higher test scores for the kids left
behind in public schools, and giving children the option to exit
segregated neighborhood schools led to racial integration overall.
And the program saved taxpayer money.

What have we learned from vouchers in Louisiana after four
years? It certainly doesn’t look like Louisiana’s regulation-heavy
approach has produced its desired results. On the contrary, the
evidence suggests it is …read more

Source: OP-EDS