What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries
April 13, 2005
David Salisbury and James Tooley, editors
Cato aficionados won't be surprised that this book offers much evidence in favor of expanded school choice - or, more precisely, of creating a true marketplace in education. In the U.S., we have experimented (albeit in small doses) with any number of market-style reforms: charter schools, vouchers, public school choice, tax credits, etc. However, these schemes have typically been constructed in ways that limit their competitive impacts; while they may help participating students, their limited scale and political and fiscal constraints typically mean they can't be counted on to stimulate much change in existing schools or to spark the creation of new schools. This interesting volume culls similar lessons from Canada, Sweden, Chile, and New Zealand in particular. Canada's experience suggests that "government funding of private education . . . may make private schools more like public schools, but it also seems to make public schools more like private schools." In Sweden, "vouchers work," yet they're in danger of being stifled by a host of new regulations. The study also updates the plethora of research on Chile, noting that vouchers there improve outcomes, even when controlling for demographic factors - so long as the voucher is fully funded. There's more, including research on special education at home and abroad, and chapters discussing the relevance of international programs to the U.S. It's an accessible read that manages to unpeel much research without being boring, and backs up its pleas for choice with useful evidence. Look for it soon here. We're also anxiously awaiting the publication of James Tooley's upcoming international study of school choice, which Fordham has helped to support and which promises to be a blockbuster.