Though school vouchers have met with a chilly reception by some in Ohio, other countries have warmed up to them quite nicely--for good reason, too. There’s mounting evidence that they’re having a considerable impact on student outcomes. Consider Columbia (yes, Columbia). During the 1990s, its government instituted a voucher program to increase access to high schools, providing over 125,000 students (via a lottery) with about half the cost of tuition at a private school. Researchers have found that those in the program were 15 to 20 percent more likely to finish high school, had lower rates of grade repetition, earned higher scores on academic assessments, and were more likely to sit for college entrance exams. In Sweden, education reforms in the early 1990s resulted in greater choice for parents and students via a government-funded voucher program. The result has been expanded schooling options and some compelling proof that competition and choice raise standards for everyone. As senators in Ohio debate the future of the state’s fledgling voucher program--as well as a new special education voucher initiative, they might want to look abroad for a little guidance and some compelling evidence for offering Ohio’s parents more choices and opportunities for their children’s education.
“Free to Choose, and Learn,” The Economist, May 3, 2007.