Public policy in education has come to this in Louisiana -- and too much of the rest of America.
What is "this"? "This" is a Brookings Institute report on research showing students who "win" Louisiana's school-voucher lottery and escape their "failing" public schools . . . lose. Big time.
The affected students had won a voucher to attend, at no cost, a private school in Louisiana. Nineteen states have such voucher programs, with Louisiana’s the fifth-largest in the country. The vouchers, averaging $5,311 per student, must be accepted as full tuition at the private schools that participate in the program; schools are not allowed to ask students to “top-up” their vouchers if the school has a higher sticker price. Further, schools can’t pick and choose among the voucher winners. Instead, they have to take any student who holds a voucher.[ii]HERE'S HOW you get to the abject cluster(expletive) that exemlifies "this," and here's where you like go from "this":
Nationwide, 141,000 students use a voucher to attend a private school.[iii] Louisiana’s voucher program launched in New Orleans in 2008. It was expanded to include the entire state in 2012. Students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty threshold are eligible for the voucher as long as they attend a public school the state has labeled as low-performing. Over half of Louisiana’s public schools fall into this category.
Researchers have long attempted to understand the effectiveness of private schools. It’s a difficult task, because parents choose their children’s schools, either by living in a certain school district or by applying to a private or charter school. The challenges are identical to those in evaluations of charter-school effectiveness: kids who attend private school are different from those who attend a public, neighborhood school, who in turn are different from those who attend a charter school.[iv] When comparing school performance, researchers struggle to distinguish differences in schools’ effectiveness from variation in the types of students who choose those schools.
A voucher lottery provides an unusual opportunity to measure the effectiveness of private schools. The lottery serves as a randomized trial, which is the gold standard of research methods. Random selection means that lottery winners and losers are identical, on average, when they apply for the voucher. Any differences that emerge after the lottery can therefore be attributed to the private-school attendance of the winners.
The results were startling. The researchers, a team of economists from Berkeley, Duke, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the scores of the lottery winners dropped precipitously in their first year of attending private school, compared to the performance of the lottery losers. The effects were very large: roughly a quarter of a standard deviation in math, social studies, and science. There were no effects on reading scores. On a per-year basis, these negative effects are as large as the positive effects that a similarly-designed study found for charter schools in Boston (the authors of the Louisiana study are my collaborators in the charter research).[v]
1) We declare public education a failure, blaming it for not magically taking the sociological deviance amid the student population and turning it, alchemist-style, into 24-karat gold. And MIT scholarships.
2) We take a page from our highly successful Vietnam playbook: We must destroy this village in order to save it.
3) As part of the destroy-to-save process, we starve public schools of funds so we can give it to a motley crew of private and charter schools . . . because private sector.
4) We sit back and watch the chaos ensue as the private sector f***s the whole thing up worse than the public sector at $5,500 a head, if not more.
5) Wait! A solution to make the whole thing work just like we know it can! Double down -- with taxpayer money -- on what hasn't yet worked.
6) Look! A liberal! Git a rope!
7) Pay no attention to that social scientist aggregating data sets.
8) Look! Pinko-commie-fag academics talkin' trash about free enterprise and educational choice! Grab your guns!
9) We'll surely get the right charter- and private-school partners this time!
10) Well, shit.
11) Pay no attention to the poverty, chaotic lives and toxic culture of "that part of town." Public schools! Bad!
12) Avoid "that part of town."
13) MY kid's private school is pretty good -- a bargain at $9,500 a year!
14) Raise property tax on my house by $100 to fund those failed government schools?!? What, I'm made of money???
ON THE other hand . . . don't worry. Be happy. Donald Trump will fix it all.