NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Vouchers Work

May 4, 2011

When President Obama first moved to phase out the D.C. Opportunities Scholarship Program, which finances tuition vouchers for low-income kids to attend private schools, his Education Department was in possession of a federal study showing that voucher recipients, who number more than 3,300, made gains in reading scores and didn't decline in math.  The administration claims that the reading gains were not large enough to be significant.  But the program's merits don't rest on reading scores alone, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • In a study published last year, Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that voucher recipients had graduation rates of 91 percent.
  • That's significantly higher than the D.C. public school average (56 percent) and the graduation rate for students who applied for a D.C. voucher but didn't win the lottery (70 percent).
  • In testimony before a Senate subcommittee in February, Mr. Wolf said that "we can be more than 99 percent confident that access to school choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and not mere statistical noise, was the reason why... [voucher] students graduated at these higher rates."

The positive effects of the D.C. voucher program are not unique.

  • A recent study of Milwaukee's older and larger voucher program found that 94 percent of students who stayed in the program throughout high school graduated, versus just 75 percent of students in Milwaukee's traditional public schools.
  • And contrary to the claim that vouchers hurt public schools, the report found that students at Milwaukee public schools "are performing at somewhat higher levels as a result of competitive pressure from the school voucher program."
  • Thus vouchers can benefit even the children that don't receive them.

Source: Jason L. Riley, "The Evidence Is In: School Vouchers Work," Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2011.

For Wolf study:


Browse more articles on Education Issues