School vouchers don’t matter in the larger policy debate, writes Kevin Carey of Education Sector in Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington, D.C.’s program didn’t “create new competition and provide incentives for innovators and entrepreneurs to bring energy and resources to the enterprise of educating students.”
No new schools have been built as a result, no groundbreaking programs created, competition spurred, or innovators attracted. It’s basically just an exercise in seeing what happens when you take a couple thousand students out of pretty bad schools and put them in a range of other schools that are, collectively, somewhat better. Answer: some of the students may be doing somewhat better! I think we already knew this.
Remarkably, the D.C. voucher program is being taken seriously even as, right here in the same city, charter schools are actually creating the whole range of market responses that vouchers are not.
A better education for 1,700 low-income students is nothing to sneer at, counters Jay P. Greene.
While Carey doubts 17,000 vouchers would have motivated Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day to “up and build annexes in Anacostia,” Greene responds that most voucher students attend non-elite private schools that might expand “if you offered them 10 times as many spots and long-term security of funding.” And D.C. charter schools wouldn’t be offering much competition if they’d been limited to 1,700 students and one third the district’s per-student funding.
Reason TV has video of the D.C. school voucher rally, which pushed President Obama to announce that currently enrolled students will continue to receive vouchers through high school. No new students will be allowed to enter the program.