NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Benefits of Education Competition Demonstrated in Little-noted Study

June 7, 2001

In every area where school choice has been allowed to operate, student performance has improved in both "choice" schools and public schools. So concludes a study by noted economist Caroline Hoxby of Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Choice schools included charters in Michigan and Arizona and voucher schools in Milwaukee.

The Wall Street Journal comments editorially that it could not locate any media reports of Hoxby's critically important research outside the Milwaukee press.

In findings the national media apparently ignored, Hoxby reported that:

  • The productivity of American schools -- defined as student performance per dollar spent -- fell by 65 percent from 1970-71 to 1998-99.
  • "Overall," she writes, "an evaluation of Milwaukee suggests that public schools have a strong, positive productivity response to competition from vouchers.
  • "The schools that faced the most potential competition from vouchers had the best productivity response.
  • "In fact, the schools that were the most treated to competition had dramatic productivity improvements."

So vouchers can goad public schools to improve. Choice supporters might want to keep that in mind next time they are confronted by the argument that choice drains money from public schools.

Source: Editorial, "Choice Evidence," Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2001.

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