On Betsy DeVos And Why School Vouchers Work

The Obama administration shall forever be remembered for its inability to improve the American school system – a failure made eminently clear by a regression in every single measurable metric. Obama’s administration proposed and enacted policies that amounted to massive stimulus packages, and a hurried inquisition to increase government oversight of schools.

Enter Betsy DeVos, Trumps Secretary of Education – a staunch conservative and supporter of charter schools, school vouchers, greater autonomy and accountability in the public-school system. A stark contrast from the Obama administration, which sought to have its big brown nose shoved up everything, and everyone’s rear.

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DeVos wants to create a free, competitive market within the school system. By allowing students to choose schools, as opposed to being geographically assigned a school, it forces schools to enact a mandate focused on student success.

Liberals have blasted DeVos, stating that her policies will lead to a lack of accountability. Additionally, opposition has claimed that school vouchers don’t work – citing Detroit as an example of her failed voucher program. This claim is negligent, and facile – a monkey could take a cursory glance at the problems in Detroit and realize that schooling is not the issue. The most brilliant, avant-garde educational policies in the world would not solve the muddy morass that is Detroit. The also claims she supports Common Core, which is untrue – she did at one point support it, but has disavowed her prior stance.

Whenever Liberals criticize vouchers, they make anecdotal, fallacious claims without any facts. Liberals tend to claim that school-choice students perform worse, than regular public-school students. The research, however, suggests the opposite.

According to the researchers, the results “show substantial gains for school choice students in both reading and math test scores.”[A] substantial body of research shows that at worst, students perform as well in private and charter schools as they would have in regular public schools, and at a lower cost.” A 2010 evaluation of the DC program for the federal Institute of Education Sciences found that the program “significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school.” 

So we’ve already established that liberals lie about everything – and the school system is no exception…but do vouchers and school choice actually improve students scores, and success?

The answer, is yes. 

The School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) is an educational research projected created by the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform. The researchers devoted themselves to “the rigorous and unbiased evaluation of school choice programs and other school improvement efforts across the country”.  The 83-page report is quite detailed, so below are some of the most important nuggets.

“We found that vouchers are cost effective, since they tend to generate achievement outcomes that are as good as or better than traditional public schools but at a fraction of the cost. The greater efficiency of school choice in general and school vouchers in particular are another fruitful avenue for scholarly inquiry.”

“For math scores, we report 10 meta-analytic ITT effect sizes (seven in the US and three outside of the US). Overall, vouchers have a positive effect on math of 0.11 standard deviations, 0.07 standard deviations in the US and 0.15 standard deviations outside of the US.”

“The overall results indicate that school vouchers have positive effects in both reading and math.”

“The overall results just described in this section are for the final year of data in each study. It could be that these effects are not representative of the initial effects one might expect from a new program. In fact, our analysis of the effects by year indicates that the effects of private school voucher programs often start out null in the first one or two years and then turn positive. Longer-term achievement effects, of course, are much more salient than immediate achievement effects whenever longer-term effects are available.”

What’s important to note here, is that although, based on this research, voucher-programs are null in the first year or two, the longer-term effects are clear, and noticeable. What’s also clear is that school choice is an effective indicator of a success.

In the same report, the researchers also noted that would should be important to politicians, is that vouchers are also cost-efficient:

“Additionally, in terms of policy implications, it is critical to consider the cost-benefit tradeoffs associated with voucher programs. Wolf & McShane (2013) and Muralidharan et al. (2015) found that vouchers are cost effective, since they tend to generate achievement outcomes that are as good as or better than traditional public schools but at a fraction of the cost. The greater efficiency of school choice in general and school vouchers in particular are another fruitful avenue for scholarly inquiry.”

School vouchers create a free market, which places (rightly so) the burden of educating children, on the schools, and parents – not the government. With the government failing to adequately revitalize the school system, liberals have no ground on which to stand and cast criticism.

I’ll be holding judgment until I see her policies enacted, however, based on the research that we have available, and what DeVos has said – we should expect some effective wholesale changes to the school system. If enacted properly, her school vouchers will lead to more affordable private education, improvement in education quality and greater opportunities for low-income children.

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