A variety of studies in recent years have revealed that private school voucher schemes don’t live up to their promises of giving families better options and improving public schools through competition. Now a new study reveals that private schools most available to the low-income families that vouchers are supposed to help tend not to offer academic benefits over public schools.
The report, Private Schooling in the U.S.: Expenditures, Supply, and Policy Implications, comes from an extensive examination of 1,500 private schools nationally. It was jointly published by the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University.
In short, the report reveals that the cost and quality of private schools is strongly associated with the religious affiliation of the schools. Non-Catholic Christian schools tend to cost the least, but those schools also tend to pay teachers the least, have teachers with the weakest academic records, have higher student-to-teacher ratios, and have the lowest student test scores. According to the study, Catholic schools tend to approximate public schools in those categories.
More expensive private schools — many of them Hebrew and independent (generally not religiously affiliated) day schools — typically spend more on education resources, but often their tuition costs aren’t even close to covered by vouchers (which typically are worth about the cost of educating a student in public schools). As a result, many of those better-performing private schools remain out of the reach of even low-income families with vouchers.
So what does this mean? Vouchers often take money from neighborhood schools to pay tuition at nonpublic schools that typically don’t do a better job educating their students. Worse, as the Texas Freedom Network has repeatedly pointed out, those voucher schools don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools and are unaccountable to taxpayers. Such a deal, right?