Category Archives: Journal Article

Do School Vouchers Work? Milwaukee’s Experiment Suggests an Answer

Source: Tawnell D. Hobbs, Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2018
Almost three decades ago, Milwaukee started offering the nation’s first-ever school vouchers. Starting small, the program allowed poor children to use taxpayer money to attend private schools. Today, about a quarter of Milwaukee children educated with public funds take advantage, making the program a testing ground for a big experiment in education.  Did students in the program get a better education? That depends on how participating schools handled a critical issue: how many voucher students to let in.  A Wall Street Journal analysis of the data suggests vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. …


A new study suggests that school vouchers could actually hurt organized religion
Source: Matthew Rosza, Salon, February 15, 2017

Although school vouchers may be a boondoggle to churches, a new study from The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that “they offer financial stability for congregations while at the same time diminishing their religious activities.” The National Bureau of Economic Research found that more than 80 percent of private school students in the 2011/2012 school year attended a religiously-affiliated school, with Catholicism being the most common religious affiliation. The authors studied 71 Catholic parishes in Milwaukee from 1999 to 2013. … Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether one believes that religious institutions should focus on religion or on making money by supplanting public schools. … “Our numbers suggest that, within our sample alone, the Milwaukee voucher program has led over time to a decline in non-educational church revenue of $60 million. These large effects are driven by the large size of the voucher program itself,” the authors wrote. …

More Graduates, Less Criminals? The Economic Impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
Source: Will Flanders and Corey A. DeAngelis, University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform Working Paper, February 3, 2017

Although an abundance of research indicates that private schooling can benefit individual children through higher test scores, the effects on society are less clear. We monetize and forecast the social impacts of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) in the United States. We use existing literature on the impacts of the MPCP on criminal activity and graduation rates. Between 2016 and 2035, students who use a voucher in the MPCP will generate additional economic benefits of $473 million associated with higher graduation rates, and $26 million associated with fewer felonies and misdemeanors, relative to their traditional public school peers.

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Governing garbage: Advancing urban sustainability in the context of private service delivery

Source: Jacqueline Peterson and Sara Hughes, Cities, October 2017


City governments across North America are increasingly pursuing sustainability aims through novel policies and practices. Such efforts frequently involve changes to municipal services that are provided by the private sector. However, the implications of private service delivery for public sustainability aims are not well understood. We use the experience of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area with organic waste recycling to examine how different types of public-private relationships in service delivery shape the ability of municipalities to pursue sustainability through organic waste recycling programs. We find that municipalities with contractual relationships with waste haulers – “organized” systems – have greater success in introducing organic waste recycling than municipalities with licensing relationships with waste haulers – “open” systems. These findings point to the importance of institutional variation in public-private relationships to the success of urban sustainability initiatives and the ability of decision makers to affect change.

The School-Voucher Paradox

Source: Hayley Glatter, The Atlantic, February 15, 2017

School choice aids and abets segregation—or so goes the logic of many of the policy’s loudest critics. But a study recently published in Education and Urban Society provides evidence to the contrary: A voucher program actually reduced racial stratification in the public schools that families decided to leave. The focus of the study, titled “The Impact of Targeted School Vouchers on Racial Stratification in Louisiana Schools,” is the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which provides state money for students to attend private schools. Researchers found that as families participated in the program, the student bodies of the public schools they opted out of began to more closely reflect the racial makeup of the school’s surrounding community. In other words, the public schools became more integrated. The findings stand apart from previous research conducted by groups like that National Education Policy Center that found many school-choice programs result in “an unsettling degree of segregation.” Patrick Wolf, one of the co-authors of the study and an education professor at the University of Arkansas, attributed the new findings to Louisiana’s demographic makeup and emphasized that the rollout and examination of school-choice programs should be “heavily context dependent.”

… Yes, the study “indicates that the vast majority (82 percent) of LSP transfers have reduced racial stratification in the voucher students’ former public schools.” The operative word in that analysis, though, is “former.” The families that used the voucher option to attend a private school facilitated integration in a public school their child would no longer attend. And, in fact, the study found that the students who used vouchers in Louisiana reduced racial stratification in the private schools they selected just 45 percent of the time: More often, Wolf said, “they actually increase the segregation in the private school … they push the student demographics of the private school further away from the ideal standards from the community.” … On top of that, early evidence on student achievement also points to negative outcomes for families that took advantage of the vouchers. …

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About The Louisiana Voucher Program, Where Failure Really Is An Option
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, July 25, 2016

Sure, on the whole, Louisiana’s voucher schools are flunkie, but in 2015, at a greater cost to the public than the public schools that they are trailing, voucher schools are, uh, less flunkie. Let’s look at some numbers derived from that 2016-17 voucher application data file. 7,807 students who met the qualification for income eligibility applied for vouchers in 2016-17, where income eligibility means that the household income cannot exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Of that 7,807, only 588 (7.5 percent) identified as attending a local-board-controlled public school the previous school year. So much for droves of students fleeing traditional public schools when given “choice.” …

Louisiana governor looks to curb school choice
Source: Amelia Hamilton, Louisiana Watchdog, March 15, 2016

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is looking to curb both school vouchers and charter school growth in the state. On Monday, the Democrat proposed legislation that would narrow eligibility for participation in the voucher program and make it harder to launch charter schools.

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Do For-Profit Managers Spend Less on Schools and Instruction? A National Analysis of Charter School Staffing Expenditures

Source: Mark Weber and Bruce Baker, Educational Policy , February 7, 2017

This article takes advantage of a recently released national data set on school site expenditures to evaluate spending variations between traditional district operated schools and charter schools operated by for-profit versus nonprofit management firms. Prior research has revealed the revenue-enhancement, private fund-raising capacity of major nonprofit providers. For-profit providers may face greater pressure to reduce operating expenses. As such, we hypothesize that regardless of average differences in staffing expenses between district and charter schools, school site staffing expenditures are likely to be lower in for-profit than in nonprofit managed charter schools. Furthermore, school site instructional staffing expenditures may be lower yet. Applying national, then state-level models to compare spending for schools of similar size, serving similar grade ranges and students with similar attributes (income status, special education, and language proficiency status), we find these assumptions largely to be true. Specifically, on average across all settings (global model) we find that charters spend less per pupil on instructional salaries compared with districts; furthermore, for-profit charters spend less than nonprofits. Furthermore, for-profit charters spend statistically significantly less (p < .05) on instructional salaries, compared with district schools in many states.

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The Political Economy of Prison Labour: From Penal Welfarism to the Penal State

Source: Anil Shah and Christoph Scherrer, Global Labour Journal, January 2017

The article traces the return of prison labour for commercial purposes in the United States. In the age of Fordism, work for commercial purposes was prohibited in prisons; the emphasis was on rehabilitation. This “penal welfarism” gave way to a “penal state” of extremely high incarceration rates and exploitative prison labour. While this shift mirrors the turn to neo-liberalism, it is also the result of specific labour market conditions and racial discrimination.

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An Input Adjustment Method for Challenging Privatization: A Case from Michigan Prison Health Services

Source: Roland Zullo, Labor Studies Journal, December 17, 2016

I investigate the feasibility of completely privatizing prison physical and mental health service. The study is based on bid documents from Michigan’s 2012 exploration of privatized health care, along with historical documents. Five lessons are reported: (1) Price differences are largely attributable to staffing strategies, with private agents using fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) and less-qualified staff; (2) privatization ushers in personnel practice that is less structured for long-term employee retention; (3) managed competition is impractical due to qualified provider scarcity and desirability of client-patient continuity; (4) tension between best practice medicine and the profit motive is unresolvable, which necessitates diligent monitoring; and (5) privatization ideology is a powerful force that is external to the public interest but one that can be challenged by “good government” coalitions.

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Pay For Success And Population Health: Early Results From Eleven Projects Reveal Challenges And Promise

Source: Paula M. Lantz, Sara Rosenbaum, Leighton Ku and Samantha Iovan, Health Affairs, November 2016

Pay for success (PFS) is a type of social impact investing that uses private capital to finance proven prevention programs that help a government reduce public expenditures or achieve greater value. We conducted an analysis of the first eleven PFS projects in the United States to investigate the potential of PFS as a strategy for financing and disseminating interventions aimed at improving population health and health equity. The PFS approach has significant potential for bringing private-sector resources to interventions regarding social determinants of health. Nonetheless, a number of challenges remain, including structuring PFS initiatives so that optimal prevention benefits can be achieved and ensuring that PFS interventions and evaluation designs are based on rigorous research principles. In addition, increased policy attention regarding key PFS payout issues is needed, including the “wrong pockets” problem and legal barriers to using federal Medicaid funds as an investor payout source.

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Gender, Markets, and Inequality: A Framework

Source: Huriya Jabbar, Wei-Ling Sun, Melinda A. Lemke, & Emily Germain, Educational Policy, October 19, 2016

A growing body of research examines the role of elite networks, power, and race in the advocacy for market-based reforms and their ultimate effects on students, teachers, and communities of color. Yet, less research explores how such reforms interact with gender in the workplace, especially how policies such as school choice, competition, and incentive-based pay impact female actors within K-12 schools (e.g., teachers, school leaders). The current research on marketization and privatization in education has largely overlooked the potential impact on women in schools. We review the literature on women in K-12 education and in the economy more generally, and organize it conceptually to identify areas for future inquiry. After synthesizing and summarizing themes across diverse bodies of literature, we contend that as schools privatize, we may see greater gender disparities in education leadership and teaching.

Implementing Public–Private Partnerships How Management Responses to Events Produce (Un)Satisfactory Outcomes

Source: Stefan Verweij, Geert R. Teisman, & Lasse M. Gerrits, Public Works Management & Policy, October 23, 2016

Most research on Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure development focuses on phases prior to construction. The implementation phase itself has received less attention. However, sound public–private agreements and project preparations can fail during project implementation because of, for example, unforeseen events and ineffective responses to them. We conducted case studies on two infrastructure projects to examine which management responses to events during implementation produce (un)satisfactory outcomes. We found that externally oriented responses or a cooperative stance between the public and private partners produce satisfactory outcomes in responding to events. In practice, however, management responses are often internally oriented and non-cooperative, resulting in unsatisfactory outcomes. We identified three explanations for this, related to time pressure in implementation, the organization of the involvement of external stakeholders, and project culture in the PPP. The article concludes with implications for management and policy of infrastructure PPPs.

Charter Schools Do Little To Combat Racial Segregation, Says National Study

Source: Leah Binkovitz, The Rivard Report, October 12, 2016

Charter schools have been around for 25 years, following a 1991 Minnesota law that paved the way for eight such schools there. Today, charter schools enroll a small percentage of public school students across the country, but they continue to inspire heated debate about equity and education reform. Now, a new national study of enrollment, poverty, and testing data concludes that charter schools have little impact on the widespread racial segregation found in traditional public schools. … The findings rely on nationwide data from the 2010-2011 school year for fourth and tenth graders in districts with at least one charter school. The study comes at a time of heated debate about the role of charter schools. A 2010 report from the Civil Rights Project out of the University of California, Los Angeles, concluded that “the charter school movement has been a major political success, but it has been a civil rights failure.” The report continues, saying, “though there are some remarkable and diverse charter schools, most are neither.” …

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