Reviewers Find Much Hype, Little Evidence in Education Savings Account Report
EAST LANSING, MI (Oct. 23, 2012) – School choice policies are increasing at a rapid rate, with conventional voucher plans now joined by neovoucher plans funded through donor tax credits as well as plans to fund private schooling through personal tax credits for parents. A recent report promotes Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) as well designed to bring Milton Friedman's concept of school vouchers into the 21st Century.
A new review of the report, however, finds that it ignores research and lacks fundamental details that could guide policymakers as to the viability of ESAs – much as Friedman's original voucher proposal also lacked necessary details.
The report, The Way of the Future: Education Savings Accounts for Every American Family, was written by Matthew Ladner and published by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. Charisse Gulosino, assistant professor in the University of Memphis' Leadership and Policy Studies Program, and Jonah Liebert, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University's Teacher College, prepared the review for the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Like conventional vouchers, ESAs are conceived as providing parents with public funds to purchase approved educational services, including private schools, online education, private tutors and even higher education.
Gulosino and Liebert observe that the new Friedman Foundation report presenting ESAs as "the way of the future" nonetheless "lacks fundamental information to guide policymakers on their design, implementation, financing, and sustainability." Such details are important because they determine the equity, efficiency and cost effectiveness of ESAs, Gulosino and Liebert write.
The reviewers note that the Friedman Foundation's report suggests ESAs as a way to sidestep state constitutional language prohibiting the support of religious organizations with public funds.
Additionally, "Relevant, peer-reviewed evidence on school choice policies suggest that the claimed academic and economic benefits of ESAs are speculative and overstated," the reviewers write.
These shortcomings in the report—the lack of any sort of comprehensive, in-depth analysis of ESAs, their design, or their efficacy—make it unsuitable as useful research. Instead, it merely stands as "a propaganda document," they explain.
Gulosino and Liebert conclude: "While the report claims a better education at lower cost, and a more equitable and democratic provision of education, no evidence is presented to support these claims. In fact, it is more likely that the implementation of ESAs would have exactly the opposite effects."
Find the review by Charisse Gulosino and Jonah Liebert on the Great Lakes Center website at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org
The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website at:
The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.
Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GreatLakesCenter.