Milwaukee vouchers boost graduation rate

Milwaukee’s school voucher program increased the chances of students graduating from high school and going on to college, according to five years of research by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas. Low-income students can use vouchers to attend private schools.

“The Choice Program boosts the rates at which students graduate from high school, enroll in a four-year college, and persist in college,” said John Witte, professor of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Voucher students’ achievement growth was higher in reading but similar in math to comparable public school students, the analysis concluded. In the upper grades, voucher students performed better in reading and science but worse in math.

From 7.5 to 14.6 percent of voucher students have disabilities, the study calculates. That’s much higher than the state’s estimate, which was based only on students receiving test accommodations. Compared to private schools, public schools are 60 percent more likely to identify a student as needing special education. Many students who switched from public to private schools no longer are considered disabled.

 

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Comments

  1. This is about providing services and accommodations to students with special needs vs. not providing them:

    Compared to private schools, public schools are 60 percent more likely to identify a student as needing special education. Many students who switched from public to private schools no longer are considered disabled.

    Is that being treated as a good thing?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Well, the parents have an option, don’t they? They can choose the public school that will identify their child as SE, or they can use a voucher and private school that doesn’t. How is that a bad thing?

    • John Thacker says:

      No, I’d say it’s about the fact that the public schools are generally eligible for extra money for identifying students as disabled, but the voucher private schools are not, so the public schools have a certain incentive.

    • Whether it’s good or bad is a question for parents to decide. The point is that it’s hard to compare the disability rates at private and public schools because they have different policies — and very different financial incentives — for deciding if a child should be identified as disabled.

  2. Joanne’s correct. But the different standards/policy are part of the problem. Additionally, public schools have more resources to offer a parent if the disability is approved by them.

    I would also look at dyslexia, which is not Sped, but 504. There are private schools that have labeled 40% of their classes dyslexic; it appears mostly to get high achieving students more time on the SAT and the ACT.

  3. Actually, special education services are an “unfunded mandate” — public schools are required to provide them and are provided only with a small percentage of the extra funding that the services actually cost them. So Mike43 is wrong — public schools do NOT have more resources.

    So in reality, Joanne, public and private schools have the same financial incentive in regard to identifying a child as disabled. In both cases, the supports, resources and (often) accommodations required are a financial burden. Private school parents also often (usually?) don’t want children with disabilities in their kids’ classes — that’s what they pay the big bucks for — and of course public school parents who share that view have no traction with it.

    The whole situation is a challenge either way for parents who want their kids with disabilities to receive the appropriate services. But where the big difference is is that private schools can openly exclude them (“we can’t meet your child’s needs”) — as charter schools do too — and public schools can’t, though public schools’ services are certainly often imperfect.

  4. Actually, special education services are an “unfunded mandate” — public schools are required to provide them and are provided only with a small percentage of the extra funding that the services actually cost them.

    What you say might be true in a few cases, but you can’t generalize like that without evidence.

    Read up on special education funding here: http://projectforum.org/docs/FinancingSpecialEducation-StateFundingFormulas.pdf Note that in the typical state, kids with expensive disabilities are given 3 to 5 or more times as much funding as other students (i.e., up to $50,000 a year or more).

    If that’s a small percentage of the funding required, well, 50,000 is 5% of one million. Please identify what sort of disability takes $1 million per year to educate.

  5. Note also that California spends $6 billion a year just on special ed. http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/finance/FinanceReportForState_districts.asp?level=04&reportNumber=4&Tab=1#Activity

    Again, if that’s a small percentage, I presume you think California needs to spend about $100 billion a year on special ed.

    That is more than the entire state budget.

    Why do you think California could, or should, spend more than its entire state budget just for special ed? Isn’t that a bit extreme?

    • I didn’t give an opinion one way or another on how much California should spend on special education. I’m just telling you that it’s absolutely not true that schools benefit financially from serving students with disabilities. The term “unfunded mandate” is universally applied here.

      Just restating firmly: Joanne is dead wrong. Both public and private schools have a massive financial disincentive for serving students with disabilities. It’s the very same disincentive: It is often very expensive to provide the necessary supports and accommodations. How could it be otherwise? That doesn’t even make logical sense, Joanne.

      • I didn’t give an opinion one way or another on how much California should spend on special education.

        Yes, you did. You said that schools get only a “small percent” of the funding they need, which necessarily implies that a mere $6 billion in California should be multiplied by a factor of, say, 20 or so.

        Faced with the reality of what that implies, you seem to be backing off. So you admit your initial statement was wildly uninformed?

  6. I’m just telling you that it’s absolutely not true that schools benefit financially from serving students with disabilities.

    Says you. Any evidence? Keep in mind that if a school receives 8 times the money (as in some states) but spends only 6 or 7 times the money, that would be a financial incentive.

  7. Just in case anyone is reading this thread still:

    I work in the field of children with disabilities. It’s an ongoing issue that public schools are often unwilling to identify children as disabled because of the cost burden of providing special education services, which cost districts far more than they receive in reimbursement. I’m certainly not backing off that; it’s definitely reality.

    Of course I endorse providing children with disabilities with all the services and supports they need to function in school (and life).