Louisiana Voucher Program Helps School Desegregation

December 2, 2013

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), also known as the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, provides public funds for low-income students in low-performing public schools to enroll in local private schools. The program has recently come under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice, which has filed a lawsuit alleging the program is impeding federal school-desegregation efforts initiated in the 1970s. Anna J. Egalite and Jonathan N. Mills, doctoral academy fellows in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, examine in Education Next the program's likely effects on the racial makeup of Louisiana schools.

The findings of the study suggest that use of private school vouchers by low-income students actually has positive effects on racial integration.

The researchers assess whether the private schools attended by students using state-funded vouchers offer more or less racially segregated environments than those available to students who remain in public schools.

  • Comparing private schools that have LSP enrollees to public schools that were previously attended by LSP users, they find that LSP schools are no more segregated, on average, than the public schools previously attended by voucher students.
  • In addition, private schools with LSP enrollees are half as likely as public schools to be identified as racially homogeneous.
  • Just 17 percent of LSP schools are racially homogeneous, compared to 34 percent of public schools that previously enrolled LSP students, a statistically significant difference.
  • Among LSP transfers for which data are available, the overwhelming majority (83 percent) have positive impacts on the racial integration of the student's sending school.

The analysis of the Louisiana Scholarship Program reveals that the vouchers used by the subset of recipients for whom information is available have supported public school desegregation efforts. By leaving schools in which their racial group was overrepresented relative to the surrounding communities, voucher users have improved integration in Louisiana public schools.

Source: Anna J. Egalite and Jonathan N. Mills, "The Louisiana Scholarship Program," Education Next, Winter 2014.

 

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