A report released today from Bruce Baker at the Great Lakes Center, “Private Schooling in the U.S.: Expenditures, Supply, and Policy Implications,” questions the viability of using vouchers to augment school choice. The report is based on a review of financial and enrollment information contained in IRS tax returns combined with data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Baker concludes that private school spending varies enormously and the differences are explained by religious affiliation. Christian schools spend the least, but also have the lowest student test scores, often no better than public schools. Hebrew day schools and other independent day schools spend much more – often twice as much as traditional public schools – and also boast much higher student achievement.
Arguably, then, implementing a voucher system in poor sections of New Jersey, as both Christie and Daggett have suggested, would render the better private schools out of reach for poor families unless the private schools were willing to subsidize large portions of tuition. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that a kid would be better off at Camden High School than at Camden Catholic High School. The parents of kids who attend private schools through the D.C. voucher program might have some thoughts to share with Dr. Baker.