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Research

Peer-reviewed research shows that students who participate in voucher programs fare worse academically, sometimes dramatically worse. There is little evidence of a direct causal link between voucher programs and improvements in public schools. Not surprisingly, when public schools lose funding to vouchers, they cannot do more with less.

Studies and Research Reviews Include:

  • A 2016 study of Louisiana’s voucher and tax credit program, which found that students who performed at about the 50th percentile in math and reading prior to participation in the program dropped approximately 24 percentage points in their first year of private school. These students performed slightly better in their second year but still well below non-voucher students in both math and reading.
  • A 2016 study of the Ohio voucher program conducted by a conservative think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and funded by the pro-voucher Walton Foundation, which found voucher students: “have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools…Such impacts also appear to persist over time, suggesting that the results are not driven simply by the setbacks that typically accompany any change of school.”
  • A 2015 Notre Dame University study of Indiana’s voucher program, which found: “voucher students who transfer to private schools experience significant losses in mathematics achievement and no improvement in English compared to their records at their former public schools."
  • A 2017 report by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, which states: "In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools - in high school graduation and college enrollment rates - there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimate on graduation rates from attending a voucher school." Regarding student achievement, the report concludes, "In the few cases in which test scores increased, other factors, namely increased public accountability, not private school comparison, seem to be the more likely drivers."
  • A 2011 review by the non-partisan Center on Education Policy, which concludes: "Since 2000, more evidence has accumulated about the impact of vouchers on student test scores, particularly from longer-term studies of publicly funded voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and D.C....these students have generally found no clear advantage in academic achievement for students attending private schools with vouchers."
  • A 2008 Princeton economist's review of evidence, which states: "The best research to date finds relatively small achievement gains for students offered education vouchers, most of which are not statistically different from zero."
  • A 1998 Princeton economist’s study of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s voucher program, which found that although voucher students achieved small math gains, public school students achieved even greater gains, in all subjects, when their class sizes were comparable to those of voucher students.