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The school-voucher paradox

School choice aids and abets segregation—or so goes the logic of many of the policy’s loudest critics. But a study recently published in Education and Urban Society provides evidence to the contrary: A voucher program actually reduced racial stratification in the public schools that families decided to leave.

The focus of the study, titled “The Impact of Targeted School Vouchers on Racial Stratification in Louisiana Schools,” is the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which provides state money for students to attend private schools. Researchers found that as families participated in the program, the student bodies of the public schools they opted out of began to more closely reflect the racial makeup of the school’s surrounding community. In other words, the public schools became more integrated.

The findings stand apart from previous research conducted by groups like that National Education Policy Center that found many school-choice programs result in “an unsettling degree of segregation.” Patrick Wolf, one of the co-authors of the study and an education professor at the University of Arkansas, attributed the new findings to Louisiana’s demographic makeup and emphasized that the rollout and examination of school-choice programs should be “heavily context dependent.” About a third of Louisiana’s population is African American.