A new report released from the Indiana Center for Tax and Budget Accountability determined that students in the state who use vouchers to attend private schools do not have any academic advantage over those students who attend public schools.
Based on the evidence, it is possible that the voucher program may in fact hinder student achievement while at the same time hurting the entire education system.
The report, Analysis of Indiana School Choice Scholarship Program, took an in-depth look at the results of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., and federal research concerning charter and private schools. None of this suggested that students who participate in a voucher program did better academically than students who attended public schools.
As the voucher program in Indiana was only enacted in 2011, not enough data has been collected as of yet to determine how it has affected students in the state directly.
A study commissioned by former President George W. Bush, which controlled for school type and student demographics, discovered that, on average, children who attend traditional K-12 public schools perform better than students at both charter and private religious schools.
The authors suggest that state lawmakers should therefore not put any additional funding into such programs, which they argue will likely take money away from the state's public education system to benefit lower performing private schools. They feel that doing so could end up hurting student achievement in the state over time.
In addition, it was discovered that the most successful nations have increased student achievement by reforming the overall education system instead of focusing on reforms that pertain to competition and choice. The report says that nations that have focused on competition in education have, for the most part, not been able to achieve an increase in student achievement.
According to the Indiana Department of Education, the state put $115 million into its voucher program for the 2014-15 school year. The authors suggest that that funding would have been better spent on reforms to the public school system, rather than being used to subsidize students attending private schools.
They go on to say that because legislation in the state does not allow for the regulation of "curriculum content" at private schools that take vouchers, taxpayer money could go toward an education of unknown quality.
The authors add that vouchers could possibly lead to an increased racial stratification in the public school system, as white children who used vouchers in the 2014-15 school year exceeded the next racial group by over 44 percentage points.