One Question on Vouchers

Can you show me where vouchers have worked?

Many people think that vouchers have been enormously successful in raising achievement for children living in poverty. This was the group Milwaukee targeted in its voucher legislation. An article entitled “Project on Milwaukee Vouchers Shares Baseline Findings” in the March 4, 2008 edition of Education Week presented research that stated: “The one year snapshot of 2006-07 found little difference in state test scores between students who use the tuition subsidies to attend private schools and those who attend public schools” (Gewertz, 2008, para. 2) This report was co-authored by Jay Greene and John Witte. Green and Witte had previously been on opposite sides of the education voucher debate. In reality the study was nothing new. Since 2000 research groups such as the Economic Policy Institute (Carnoy, 2001) have consistently found no positive benefits for students using vouchers. The lone exception to this was the study by Paul Peterson of Harvard. His conclusions were ripped apart once it was revealed he simply didn’t count the 292 Black kids that the vouchers reportedly helped (Winerip, 2003).

And vouchers don’t save taxpayers money. Property taxes were higher in Milwaukee as a result of their education voucher program (Green, 2008).

A byproduct of vouchers is that regular education students have left the public schools and the percentage of special education students in Milwaukee Public Schools has increased (Ed. Week, 2008). Private schools seldom admit special education students yet their test scores do not exceed the test scores of public schools. This is surprising.

In Cleveland “voucher students enrolled in schools in response to the Cleveland program actually scored lower in all subject areas than their counterparts in the Cleveland public Schools” (Drury, 2000, p. 3) Perhaps this is why Cleveland abandoned their  voucher initiative. They realized education vouchers do not work.

The Arizona Republic neatly summarized the problems with vouchers:

  1. Wherever vouchers have been tried scandals have erupted
  2. When comparing students from similar demographics, Public Schools have repeatedly demonstrated superior academic results over other alternatives
  3. Vouchers circumvent the separation of Church and State

(Martin, 2007)


In Cleveland like Milwaukee, vouchers increased private school enrollment (Zehr, 2003).  The movement to vouchers since it can’t be based on educational results can only be attributed to:

  1. Politicians are trying to break unions and are using our children as pawns to do so
  2. The religious right seeks vouchers as a method to reestablish the church’s authority


Whichever reason you believe, and it is indeed possible both are true, the bottom line is vouchers are not good for children, parents or society.  “The greater the proportion of our youth who attend independent schools, the greater the threat to our democratic unity. Therefore to use taxpayers’ money to assist such a move is, for me, to suggest that American society uses its own hands to destroy itself” (James Bryan Conent as quoted by Michael Martin, 2007).






Carnoy, M. (2001). School vouchers: Examining the evidence (Policy Brief). Washington D.C.: Economic Policy Institute.

Drury, D. W. (2000, Summer). Vouchers and student achievement []. National School Boards Association, 1(2).

(Ed.) (2008, February 28,). Study verifies funding disparity hurts Milwaukee residents . Education Week. Retrieved from http://edweek.or/ew/articles/2008/02/27/57660wivoucherschoolsmps_html?print=1

Gewertz, C. (2008, March 4,). Project on Milwaukee vouchers shares baseline findings. Education Week. Retrieved from

Green, E. (2008, February 26,). Mixed results on Milwaukee on voucher plan. The New York Sun. Retrieved from

Martin, M. T. (2007, November 10,). Vouchers wars hit on 3 fronts. The Arizona Republic . Retrieved from

Winerip, M. (2003, May 7, ). On Education: what some much-noted data really showed about vouchers. New York Times.

Zehr, M. A. (2003, June 18,). Cleveand voucher aid no panacea for hard pressed Catholic schools. Education Week. Retrieved from http:://


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