Vouchers Celebrate 50 Years

Posted on March 17, 2005
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman's education voucher proposal. Here's some gold-standard research to commemorate the birth of an idea?

School choice is perhaps the most widely researched education issue. Yet remarkably little research finds its way to the pages of your morning paper. For example, in an analysis of 30 years of school choice studies, Columbia University researchers found "A sizeable majority of these studies report beneficial effects of competition across all outcomes," including higher student test scores, graduation rates, and teacher salaries.

In five cites with vouchers programs, scholars find vouchers are linked to higher student performance "in virtually every case."

Harvard University economist Caroline M. Hoxby finds school choice is a tide that lifts all boats. For example, in Milwaukee public schools facing competition from private schools accepting vouchers, student achievement rose as much as 4.7 national percentile points faster per year than in similar schools not facing competition. Writing on these findings for the National Bureau of Economic Research Digest, Linda Gorman notes, "Such gains are virtually unprecedented for an American school reform."

Andrew J. Coulson, senior fellow in education policy for the Mackinac Center, concludes, "The consensus of the valid empirical research is clear: Competitive markets of minimally regulated non-government schools regularly outperform state school monopolies. They do this, moreover, both at the level of individual student effects and broader social outcomes." Competition and freedom-ideas that never get old.

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