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Is Privatization through Education Vouchers Really the Answer? A Comment

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  • Carnoy, Martin
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    Government-financed school vouchers promise to improve consumer choice while still providing the public funding needed for families to invest adequately in their children's education. But politically and in practice, the choice that vouchers offer can mean many things, from eliminating neighborhood residency as a condition for attending a public school to allowing groups of parents and teachers to form their own public schools (charter schools in the United States, for example). And it can mean an educational system that is in part publicly funded but that is privately owned and operated with no public regulation. Choice through vouchers can also produce undesirable side effects that more than offset their optimistic promises. In this context, E. G. West presents a particular version of the case for vouchers. Although he allows for a range of possibilities, he puts primary emphasis on the privatization of education. This version of choice has to be distinguished from one that limits increased choice to public schools and from the use of vouchers to improve education for the poor. The three emphases are different, mainly in what they contend are the social benefits and costs of various degrees of choice. Whereas the case presented by West may appeal at an abstract level, I argue that the evidence supporting it is at best mixed and possibly negative.

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    Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal World Bank Research Observer.

    Volume (Year): 12 (1997)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 105-116

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    Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:12:y:1997:i:1:p:105-16
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    1. Willms, J. Douglas & Echols, Frank & Willms, J. Douglas, 1992. "Alert and inert clients: The Scottish experience of parental choice of schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 339-350, December.
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