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.

Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

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