Everytime the issue of vouchers raises its ugly head I have been more than ready to claim the truth that, “when compared equally, private schools are no better than public schools and are often worse.” Finally, a study by the very people who espouse the superiority of private education has vindicated my long time claim. Much to the chagrin of the Bush administration and voucher supporters the nation over, a study by the administration’s own Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that:
“in reading and math, children attending public school generally do as well or better than comparable children in private schools.” (emphasis mine). SFGate.com, 7/15/06
Hoping that it wouldn’t be widely noticed, the report was release on a mid-summer Friday afternoon. In spite of the importance of this st ry, there was no news conference or comment from the administration’s Department of Education. If not for a email from my cousin, Leila, I might have missed it. Fortunately, we have the Web, and I know of at least two post with many comments over at Daily Kos.
The administration has good reason to want this story buried. If word gets out that private schools give no advantage to students, it destroys the Bush administration’s and conservative’s chief argument in the push for school vouchers. Naturally, the administration’s spin doctors are already hard at work. Chad Colby of the Dept. of Ed. said he did not expect the findings to influence policy, and that “an overall comparison of the two types of schoos is of modest utility.”
That’s fancy talk for, “since the report didn’t go our way, we’re going to ignore it, and you should too.” Had the report showed private schools excelling beyond public, you can bet that there would have been several press conferences in front of private schools giving glowing praise to private education.
A key factor in the report was that it “put test scores in context by examining the backgrounds of children in the schools and taking into account factors like race, ethnicity, income and parents’ educational backgrounds to make the comparisons more meaningful.” SFGate.com, 7/15/06
This is important because private schools tend to have more “advantaged” students attending and have more money to spend. Equalizing the playing field and comparing apples to apples enables a more accurate assessment to be made. Based on this like comparison, there is little difference between the two, and public schools actually fare slightly better.
One of the most vociferous groups favoring private school vouchers and calling for vouchers is, of course, conservative Christians. The report found, after separating pivate schools by type, that students in conservative Christian schools did worst and are thus being shortchanged the most.
Unfortunately, this report isn’t likely to stop the rabid tenacity of groups pushing for vouchers. First, they won’t listen to reason, and second, they will be convinced by the spin that the report is “of modest utility.” They obviously want everyone’s children attending inferior schools.
This article originally appeared in The Bayne of Blogs and is cross posted with the permission of the author.