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Are vouchers the answer to school reform? At the same time that vouchers are being phased out in Washington, D.C., and Utah’s governor has declared the voucher issue dead for the present, Indiana and Ohio have just expanded their voucher programs. To gain some insight into this controversy, Champaign-Urbana educator Elizabeth Goldsmith-Conley talks to three experts in the field. Cecilia Rouse, professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, surveys a history of the development of vouchers. Paul Peterson, professor of Government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, explains his reasons for supporting vouchers. Martin Carnoy, professor of Education at Stanford University outlines his reservations by sharing the findings of his research on vouchers in Milwaukee and Chile.

Cecilia Rouse explains that vouchers , at least on a small scale, have a long history. They were issued by communities that were too small to support their own schools. Their existence on a large scale she dates to the work in the 1960’s of Milton Friedman. Friedman, an influential economist, believed that breaking the public school monopoly would decrease the cost of education and bring more innovation. Although they have been initiated on a large scale in Milwaukee, and Cleveland and are now statewide in Ohio and Indiana, she thinks they will play just a small part in school reform.

Paul Peterson argues that competition always produces positive effects and that vouchers, wherever they have been used, have improved student achievement. One virtue of vouchers, Peterson adds, is that students can use them to attend religious schools. Religious schools, he says have the advantage of having a long tradition of, are not recent start-ups or experimental but have long traditions of providing good


Martin Carnoy argues that the conclusion of most studies of vouchers both in other countries and in our own country show they do not make any particular difference in the academic achievement of students. Moreover, he believes that vouchers will never be widely accepted in this country because the middle class does not want to support religious schools. Even in the recent and well publicized tax credit laws passed in Indiana and being considered in Ohio, the number of voucher takers is likely to involve a small fraction fof school goers, although they certainly will help religious schools financially.

For Further Research

Sources Suggested by Cecilia Rouse

Center on Education Policy: (http://www.cep-dc.org/) Use their search engine and put in the term, “voucher.” The following is an example of one of their research papers:

Alan Krueger’s reassessment of the New York City Voucher experiment evidence:

A slightly more technical review of the evidence:

A less technical version of the annual review paper:

Sources Suggest by Paul Peterson

Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learningwww.savingschools.org


Sources Suggested by Martin Carnoy

Vouchers and Public School Performance: A Case Study of the Milwaukee Choice Program

By Amita Chudgar, Frank Adamson and Martin Carnoy | October 2, 2007

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