The Effect of Special-Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida's McKay Scholarship Program

Julia Heneghan

Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters
Center for Civic Innovation, The Manhattan Institute
April 2008

Since the statewide introduction of Florida's McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities in 2000, it has exploded in popularity. It currently serves nearly 18,500 students in over 800 Florida private schools, making McKay the country's largest voucher program. McKay vouchers are available to any Florida student who has been enrolled in public school for at least one year and currently has an IEP. Greene and Winters sought to examine whether the "exposure" to private schools willing to accept McKay vouchers would create positive effects for the eligible students who remained in the public school setting--i.e., whether McKay would foster constructive competition. Using longitudinal data from the Florida Department of Education, the researchers evaluated the impact on McKay-eligible students who remained in public schools of living near McKay private schools. (The longitudinal data allowed the researchers to control for student-level characteristics, such as eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches and type of disability.) Overall, they found that McKay-induced competition significantly raised the test scores of students still in the public school system. Although the report leaves much unanswered (for example: What effects do the vouchers have on the performance of the students who use them?), it does show how a targeted voucher program can have a positive impact on public education. Read it here.

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