District of Columbia students who receive federally funded scholarships to attend private schools are making gains in reading, reports a federal study of the program’s first 19 months. Some 88 percent of voucher recipients are two to four months ahead in reading, compared to public-school students who were turned down for a scholarship. However, that hasn’t translated into test scores: Voucher students earned similar test scores to the control group.
Is the glass half full? Half empty? Is there a glass? On Flypaper, Amber Winkler observes that rigorous studies tend to find very modest effects.
The scholarship program will expire next year, unless Congress authorizes more funds. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate to Congress, wants to defund the program, replacing it with charter schools, other public-school alternatives or with privately funded scholarships.
Don’t kill the program, editorializes the Washington Post, which points to very high parent satisfaction and the hope that reading gains will pay off over time.
Lost in the rhetoric about the politics of the program is the simple fact that, if not for these vouchers, 86 percent of these 1,900 children would be attending failing D.C. schools.
In an ABC News interview with Jake Tapper, Barack Obama is pro-charter and anti-voucher.
TAPPER: But one of the ways that proponents of school choice say that the best way to change the status quo is to give parents, inner-city parents a choice. Why not?
OBAMA: Well, the problem is, is that, you know, although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom. We don’t have enough slots for every child to go into a parochial school or a private school. And what you would see is a huge drain of resources out of the public schools.
So what I’ve said is let’s foster competition within the public school system. Let’s make sure that charter schools are up and running. Let’s make sure that kids who are in failing schools, in local school districts, have an option to go to schools that are doing well.
But what I don’t want to do is to see a diminished commitment to the public schools to the point where all we have are the hardest-to-teach kids with the least involved parents with the most disabilities in the public schools. That’s going to make things worse, and we’re going to lose the commitment to public schools that I think have been so important to building this country.
Choice opponents always assume that the best parents will be the first to pull their kids out of public schools. So do choice proponents. See, we’ve all come together on something.
Obama’s children go to private school, writes William McGurn in the Wall St. Journal.
Update: A House committee has voted to give the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program one more year of funding.