Study refutes Louisiana voucher program lawsuit claim

By Carrie Salls | Jul 3, 2016

BATON ROUGE – A study conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform revealed that the Louisiana Voucher Program has reduced racial desegregation in public schools, contradicting a federal lawsuit filed in 2013 that claimed otherwise.

“These findings, in short, do not support the claim of the 2013 lawsuit,”  study authors Anna Egalite and Jon Mills told the Louisiana Record.

Egalite, who is now an assistant professor at North Carolina State University,  and Mills, a U of A graduate student, worked with University of Arkansas professor Patrick J. Wolf, holder of the Twenty-First Century Endowed Chair in School Choice on the study.

The federal lawsuit claimed that the voucher system hurt desegregation efforts. In that case, a U.S. district court ruled that the voucher program could continue, as long as state officials provided the federal government with demographic information about the voucher students. That reporting requirement was overturned last fall by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which stated that the district court’s reporting requirement was “beyond the scope of district court’s continuing jurisdiction in this case.”

The study, published online in the journal Education and Urban Society, found that the vast majority of student transfers in the voucher program increased integration of public schools by reducing racial stratification in those schools while increasing racial stratification in private schools

In part, the study considered how the voucher program affected racial integration based on the transfers of actual Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) recipients from public schools into private schools from 2012-2013.

“This time frame is very relevant to the 2013 lawsuit; however, we cannot speak to the current context of the LSP and integration,” Egalite and Mills said.

Egalite and Mills said the study looked at the racial makeup of the school environment facing the child before and after he switched sectors, and compared it to the broader community to determine whether integration is being helped or hindered by the program.

“To summarize our findings in a single statement, we find that the net impact of the LSP on racial integration is encouraging,” Egalite and Mills said.

Specifically, the study found that 85 percent of school transfers made possible by the LSP helped to improve measures of racial integration at the public schools LSP scholarship users left.

On the other hand, Egalite and Mills said LSP scholarship users also tended to, on average, transfer to a private school in which their own race was over-represented relative to the broader community, as 55 percent of transfers decreased measures of integration at the students’ new private schools, “such as when black voucher students enrolled in private schools with predominantly black student populations.”

“The net impact of the program on racial integration, however, appears to be positive; with the finding largely driven by the positive results for public schools,” Egalite and Mills said. “Our research does not indicate that the LSP negatively affected measures of integration in the public schools of voucher users. Moreover, when summing the overall effect on public and private schools, our evidence suggests a net positive impact on the education system as a whole.”

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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals State of Louisiana University of Arkansas

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