Study Finds Louisiana Voucher Program Improves Racial Diversity in Public Schools



By 10/03/2013

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Contact:
Anna J. Egalite: ajacob@email.uark.edu, University of Arkansas
Ashley Inman: ashley_inman@hks.harvard.edu, 707 332-1184, Education Next Communications Office

Study Finds Louisiana Voucher Program Improves Racial Diversity in Public Schools

Contrary to allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice, the scholarship program improves racial integration in public schools in 34 districts under desegregation orders

The Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) has recently come under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which alleges that the use of private school vouchers by low-income students fails to conform to federal school-desegregation plans initiated in the 1970s. A new study, appearing in Education Next, shows that in the 34 districts under federal desegregation orders, including the 24 districts specifically named in the DOJ lawsuit, LSP transfers actually improve integration in both the public schools students leave and the private schools in which they enroll. In the 34 districts under federal desegregation orders, 74 percent of LSP transfers enhance integration in the sending schools. Statewide, 83 percent of LSP transfers positively affect racial integration in the sending schools, and LSP transfers have no significant effect on integration in receiving schools.

The Louisiana Scholarship Program provides low-income students in low-performing public schools with public funds to enroll in local private schools. All students participating in the voucher program, also known as the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, are low-income, and approximately 90 percent are African American. Initially piloted in New Orleans in 2008, the program was implemented statewide in 2012. For the 2012-13 school year, approximately 10,000 Louisiana students applied for LSP vouchers. After entering a lottery based on space availability at local private schools, nearly 5,000 students used vouchers to enroll in private schools.

The authors of the study, Anna J. Egalite and Jonathan N. Mills, used the state’s student-level database as well as U.S. Census data to examine the voucher program’s impact on integration in the 2012-13 school year. A transfer is considered to have positive effects on racial integration if it moves a school’s racial composition closer to that of the surrounding area, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Egalite explains: “If an African American student leaves a school that is more African American than its surrounding community, we would say that this transfer has improved integration at the prior school.” Conversely, “if a white student uses a LSP voucher to attend a school that is more white than its surrounding community, the transfer would be reducing integration at the new school.” This measure is well established for studying the integration impacts of school-choice programs.

The authors conclude, “The LSP is unlikely to have harmed desegregation efforts in Louisiana. To the contrary, the statewide school voucher program appears to have brought greater integration to Louisiana’s public schools.”

The study, “The Louisiana Scholarship Program: Contrary to Justice Department claims, student transfers improve racial integration” is now available on http://educationnext.org.

About the Author

Anna J. Egalite is a Ph.D. candidate in education policy and doctoral academy fellow in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Jonathan N. Mills is a doctoral academy fellow studying education policy at the University of Arkansas. The authors are available for interviews.

About Education Next

Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. For more information about Education Next, please visit: http://educationnext.org.




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