NJ Opportunity Scholarship: Must Read Items

Very little time today. Big deadlines and lots of data to analyze. Since the debate is now heating up over the NJ Opportunity Scholarship Program, I thought I’d put out there a few items which really should be part of the debate on this topic.

1) The April 2010 report on the long run effectiveness of the Milwaukee Voucher Program: http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/SCDP/Milwaukee_Eval/Report_15.pdf This report concludes:

The primary finding in all these comparisons is that, in general, there are few statistically significant differences between levels of MPCP and MPS student achievement growth in either math or reading two years after they were carefully matched to each other. In one of the ways of estimating these results, focusing only on those students who have remained in the public or private sector for all three years, private, voucher students are slightly behind MPS students in mathematics achievement growth.

2) My Summer 2009 report on the “cost” and supply of private schooling: http://epicpolicy.org/files/PB-Baker-PvtFinance.pdf It is important to understand that my point in this report was NOT that private schools are either more or less expensive than public schools in the same labor market. They are simply more varied. They are more varied in what they spend, what they provide and what they can achieve. With private schools, you get what you pay for.

I write about the specifics of the New Jersey context here: https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/would-8000-scholarships-help-sustain-nj-private-schools/, pointing out that claims that average private school costs in NJ are $6,000 (elem) and $9,000 (secondary) are entirely unfounded.

Here, I provide a quick snapshot of cost/quality issues in private schooling in response to other recent media reports: https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/stossel-coulson-misinformation-on-private-vs-public-school-costs/

The premise that children will be saved from failing public schools with these paltry payoffs to low-end private schools is a stretch at best. Good private schools are expensive, and often more expensive than even the highest spending nearby public schools. The Milwaukee studies provide useful insights as well, showing little or no effect after much more than a trial period.