The House Education Committee is taking up a statewide school voucher bill today that would send $3 million a year to pay to send students to private schools. If facts mattered, this bill would be dead. Don’t believe me. Read the work of some advocates.

Consider this remarkable blog item from the Office of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, a reliable defender of the Walton Family Foundation school “choice” agenda and a beneficiary of millions in spending by that organization.


It decided to explain about the pending school voucher proposals at the legislature.  To its credit, it referenced the studies of voucher programs nationwide and their failure to show much positive influence on education achievement.

The results for the impact of vouchers on student achievement is mixed. 

No kidding. The blog post even acknowledges that when you focus on students “less tightly targeted” to low-income and disabled students, results are better. Indeed. Middle-class students without disabilities do better in school. Also they write that maybe public  schools have gotten better. But here’s some bottom line:


Regardless, while the overarching impact of vouchers on student achievement is not completely clear, it’s likely that, even when well designed, their impact is small to neutral and that the design and context of the voucher program matters a lot.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Waltonites have grown so desperate for talking points that they’ve de-emphasized test scores (except in the Little Rock School District, of course) and started looking for other shaky limbs to hang on. A UA researcher has posited recently that people who went to Milwaukee voucher schools had better criminal records and paternity suits as adults. But there’s a caveat even there:  “These results on longer-term outcomes are promising, but more evidence is needed to verify these initial findings.”

In the face of this lackluster record, the Waltonites give their seal of approval to pending school voucher legislation:


While the proposed programs are unlikely to yield large positive results or cost savings, they will increase low-income families’ schooling options and may lead to small improvements for participants and traditional public schools alike. If either of the bills are passed, the legislature should include a requirement that the programs be rigorously evaluated so that we learn from the experience

ICYMI: The legislation has no meaningful evaluation component.

I kid you not. The Walton-funded PR organization at their university says there’s not much evidence of the value of voucher programs, but the legislature should start them anyway. What could go wrong? That’s the same thing they said when they were keeping the doors open at the Covenant Keepers charter school, a financial and academic failure protected until nearly the bitter end by the school choice lobby. Expect no less on vouchers. In Florida it’s now a billion-dollar scandal without accountability.

No, choice alone does not make education better. Well-financed, well-regulated comprehensive public education open to all is a better idea.