NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Businesses Turning To Private Education

August 28, 1997

In the 1980s, businesses poured resources into public schools, hoping to raise their standards. Now, they say that the whole exercise was a waste of time and money -- as student test scores barely budged and, in inner-city schools, actually dropped.

Now they are funding vouchers which typically pay half the cost of private schools for low-income families.

  • The average tuition at a private school is $3,116, less than half the $6,587 cost per pupil in the average public school, according to the Cato Institute.
  • This school year, 32 programs will offer the private vouchers to some 14,000 students in cities such as San Antonio, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
  • Business participants and supporters say the beauty of the private voucher route is that no one can stop them -- not voters, not teachers\' unions, not politicians, and there are no church-state issues to deal with.

Early studies of voucher programs indicate that student test scores improve after they have studied in private schools for several years. A study last year by Harvard University and University of Houston researchers found that, compared to similar students in public schools, students in a Milwaukee private scholarship program scored an average 11 points higher in math and five points higher in reading on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

There is other evidence that reforms are needed. For instance, Brookings Institution analyst John Chubb found that New York City public schools have about 240 times the number of administrators as do local Catholic schools -- but only four times as many pupils.

Sources: Laura M. Litvan, "More Firms Paying Kids' Tuition," and Editorial, "Cutting Out the Public School Middleman," both Investor's Business Daily, August 28, 1997.


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