Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Finance

A Private Universal Voucher Program's Effects on Traditional Public Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Finance

A Private Universal Voucher Program's Effects on Traditional Public Schools

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1 Introduction

"American 15-year-olds are on par with students in Portugal and the Slovak Republic, rather than with students in countries that are more relevant competitors for service sector and high-value jobs like Canada, the Netherlands, Korea, and Australia. This ranking signals the striking erosion of America's onetime leadership in education" (McKinsey and Company 2009 p. 7). The April 2009, statement about the plight of education in America has become all too familiar. The following from a U.S Department of Education (2008)reportfinds:

Of the 20 children born in 1983, only six would have been proficient readers in fourth grade and only four would have been proficient in math. A new class of 20 kids born in 1997, and tested in 2007, would have seven proficient readers in fourth grade and eight students who are proficient in math. So, while we are gaining ground in math, two-thirds of our fourth-graders are still not proficient readers. These results are generally consistent with our performance on international tests -a risk that was of particular concern to the Commission in 1983. American education outcomes on international comparisons have not improved significantly since the 1970s. International tests show that the United States is, at best, running in place, while other nations are passing us by (p. 9).

The McKinsey and Nation at Risk findings prompted a spending binge that poured billions of dollars into the system. However, McKinsey (2009) reports that such spending increases have not manifested themselves into higher test scores: "... despite large educational expenditures, school spending in the United States is among the least cost-effective in the world. By one measure we get 60 % less for our education dollars in terms of average test-score results than do other wealthy nations" (McKinsey and Company 2009 p. 9). Other scholars have reported similar findings with regard to productivity: "From 1970 to 2000, productivity fell from 58 to 30 national percentile rank points per $1000. This near-halving of productivity is a decline so substantial that it is hard to ignore" (Hoxby 2004). Hanushek (2003) similarly states regarding data collected for his study: "These data on aggregate cost and performance provide strong prima facie evidence that simple resource policies are not generally effective" (p. F67). Low productivity findings continue to fuel the arguments for and against a variety of educational reforms.

According to a more recent 2011 study known as Trends in International Mathematics and Science, U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations. Out of 54 nations, American fourth-graders ranked 7th in science and 11th in math, while eighth-graders were 10th in science and 9th in math. Perhaps what is more alarming is that only 7 % of U.S. students reached the advanced level in eighth-grade math compared to 48 % of eighth graders in Singapore and 47 % of eighth graders in South Korea.

Numerous ideas have surfaced over the last 30 years to address the issues inherent in the statements above. One such proposal is to provide students with vouchers to take to the school of their choice. The theory follows that the student and student's family will choose the school that best satisfies their educational needs. Voucher programs come in two basic forms: government funded and privately funded, and they are either universal (every student is eligible for one) or targeted (only certain qualified students receive one based on family income, special needs, or failed school designation). Government funded voucher programs currently exist in such cities as Cleveland and Milwaukee but were eliminated in Washington D.C. in 2013. Privately funded programs have served students in New York and a variety of cities including Dayton, Ohio, Charlotte, North Carolina, Washington D. …

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