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School Vouchers: What Louisiana can Learn from Chile

By Ludovico Feoli

In light of Governor Jindal’s proposal to vastly expand Louisiana’s school voucher system it might be useful to consider the track record of similar programs elsewhere. To that effect, Chile’s experience might be informative. Starting in the 1980s that country implemented the world’s farthest reaching neoliberal reform of education. The Pinochet regime intended to revolutionize vast spheres of Chilean society by replacing professional and bureaucratic organization with market forces. In a nutshell, the logic behind educational choice was that the freedom of voucher-bearing parents to select schools would create competitive forces, generating incentives for schools to improve their performance, reduce their costs, and introduce greater innovation. Did it work?

While the evidence is complex, analysts suggest that “The Chilean reforms of the 1980s were not practicable, did not turn education upside down, and did not dramatically improve school performance” (Gauri 1998, 103). The reforms did not reduce inequalities in education: most poor children attend public schools, which have lower performance than private schools and are more poorly funded, due to their inability to charge tuition or surcharges, both of which are open to their private counterparts (Levin 2011, 74; Economist 2011). The reforms did not improve performance either. While standardized scores have improved in Chile over time, it is more likely to have been as a result of improvement efforts spearheaded by the Ministry of Education, not market forces. Scores are better in Chile than they are in other Latin American countries, but they are well below the OECD average and show high variability relative to student background. In fact, what vouchers do seem to have accomplished is a redistribution of pupils with better-educated parents from public to private schools. And while private subsidized schools seem to have lower costs than the public schools, this may be due to their free riding on the public education system–by not taking special needs students, and by hiring teachers already employed in nearby public schools as part-time faculty (Carnoy 1998). The prolonged student protests that have paralyzed the country in past months are testament to a widespread discontent with the educational system.

While it is clear that there are many institutional and even cultural differences between the education systems in the United States and Chile, these results should at the very least call for caution. As Gauri (1998) suggests, there are several lessons that can be drawn from this experience for a broader context. First, it is illusory to believe that markets will replace bureaucrats. To be sure, bureaucracies tend towards hypertrophy and can be paragons of inefficiency. But markets are also plagued by imperfections, like asymmetries of information, which allow parents that are better informed about school quality and performance, usually the more affluent, to reap greater rewards from the voucher system. Leveling the playing field by evaluating and disseminating educational achievement, and keeping schools financially accountable, requires increased regulation and state intervention. This points to an ironic paradox inherent in such market liberalizing reforms.

Second, markets are not immune to politics. If vouchers lead students away from existent public schools their remaining constituents–teachers, parents, staff, students, neighbors–will resist closures, creating political unrest and impeding cost reductions. Moreover, the complexity of educational reform is such that policies cannot be imposed by fiat. Not even the Pinochet regime could override longstanding traditions tied to the influence of teachers. There is no universal model that fits the needs of every community. Parents differ in their priorities and they are often willing to trade other aspects, like safety, convenience, day care, and instruction in religious or moral codes, for some degree of academic achievement or educational innovation (Gauri 1998, 105). Deliberation and consensus building are crucial for the success of educational policy.

While the Louisiana voucher expansion has been presented as a ticket for children to escape from failing public schools, the Chilean precedent warns against expecting this to emerge solely from market forces. Unfortunately, this expectation seems to be at the heart of the proposal given its broad eligibility requirements for students and its lax eligibility requirements for schools. Under the proposed rules students in more than 70% of Louisiana’s schools (55% of the public school students) would be eligible for vouchers (BGR 2012). At the same time, virtually all private schools meeting minimal requirements for operation could accept them. What is to prevent a student from entering a worse private school than the public one she is exiting? In the absence of regulations the assumption must be that the demand for quality education will draw parents to the best performing schools. Yet, this in turn assumes the existence of perfect information–available, intelligible, and unambiguous—which the new legislation makes no effort to impose. As the case of Chile exemplifies, an active administration is inevitable: to assure vouchers go only to those students who need them; to control that only highly qualified private schools can accept those students; to measure educational achievement in schools and to make the results widely available to parents; and to keep schools accountable for their educational and financial results over time.

The Chilean case, where tuition vouchers have been more extensively tried than anywhere, shows that private schools are not necessarily better than public ones, and that competition between public and private schools will not necessarily raise the quality of education or reduce its costs. “For those concerned with the quality and cost of education in the United States, the answers lie elsewhere” (Carnoy 1998).
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BGR. Making Choice Right: Can Private School Vouchers Live Up to Their Promises? (March 2012).
Carnoy, Martin. “Do Vouchers Improve Education?” Dollars & Sense, no. 216 (1998): 24-27.
Gauri, Varun. School Choice in Chile: Two Decades of Educational Reform. Pitt Latin American Series. Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998.
Levin, Ben. “Chile, Latin America, and Inequality in Education.” Phi Delta Kappan 93, no. 2 (2011): 74-75.
“We Want the World; Education in Chile.” The Economist 400, no. 8746 (2011): 36.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy & Research

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Stone Center for Latin American Studies to Host 10th Annual Workshop on Field Research Methods

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Join us at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies for the 10th Annual Weekend Workshop on Field Research Methods on January 27, 2018. The application deadline is January 20, 2018.

How will you get the data you need for your thesis or dissertation? Do you envision immersing yourself for months in the local culture, or tromping the hills and farms seeking respondents? Sorting through dusty archives? Observing musicians at work in the plaza? Downloading and crunching numbers on a computer? For any of these approaches: How might you get there, from here?

This workshop aims to help you approach your data collection and analysis for your thesis or dissertation topic, and to adapt and refine your topic to be more feasible. You will take your research project ideas to the next stop—whatever that may be, include raising travel grants. Learn to:

  • Plan more efficiently, feasible, and rewarding fieldwork
  • Prepare more compelling and persuasive grant proposals
  • Navigate choices of research methods and course offerings on campus
  • Become a better research and fieldwork team-member

Format
This is an engaged, hands-on, informal workshop. Everyone shares ideas and participates. We will explore and compare research approaches, share experiences and brainstorm alternatives. You will be encouraged to think differently about your topic, questions, and study sites as well as language preparation, budgets, and logistics. The participatory format is intended to spark constructive new thinking, strategies, and student networks to continue learning about (and conducting) field research.

Who is leading this?
Laura Murphy, PhD, faculty in Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, and affiliate faculty to the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

Who is this for?
This workshop is targeted to Stone Center graduate students as well as graduate students from other programs (GOHB, CCC, humanities, sciences, and others) if space is available. The workshop will be particularly helpful for those who envision research with human subjects.

Sign up
Sign up as soon as you can! Apply by January 20, 2018, at the latest to confirm your stop. Send an email with the following details:

  • Your name
  • Department and Degree program
  • Year at Tulane
  • Prior experience in research, especially field research
  • Academic training in research design and methods
  • Include a 1-paragraphy statement of your current research interests and immediate plans/needs (i.e. organize summer field research)

Light breakfast and lunch will be provided. Not for credit.

For more information and/or to apply: Contact Laura Murphy at lmurphy2@tulane.edu or Jimmy Huck at jhuck@tulane.edu.

29th Annual AAPLAC Conference

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The Association for Academic Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean (AAPLAC) will hold its 29th Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 21-24, 2018, hosted by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

AAPLAC is an organization that facilitates and supports study abroad programming among Latin American, Caribbean and US institutions of higher learning and organizations dedicated to the promotion of cross-cultural, academic-based experiences.

This year’s theme, “Study Abroad: Meeting the Challenges of Cultural Engagement,” will include a variety of paper topics:

  • New Orleans after Katrina: The impact of the growing Hispanic population which came to help with rebuilding and has since stayed on
  • Interdisciplinary Institutional Content Assessment: How to best track what students are doing overseas and the benefits for our campuses
  • Global Partnerships through Peer Collaboration: How we can better work with institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Research Collaborations – U.S.-Latin America: Faculty led/student participation in on-site studies
  • Anglo-Hispanic Challenges: Cross-cultural understanding through experiential learning and study abroad
  • Strategic Partnerships: How we can enhance protocols between our schools in the US and those in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Strengthening AAPLAC Relationships through Inter-Organization Mentoring: How we can enhance protocols amongst our schools in the US
  • Latina Empowerment: More women on study abroad programs: How we can take advantage of this bond between women of the North and the South
  • Rethinking Mobility: How is the student’s identity compromised/enhanced abroad?
  • Community-Based Partnerships: How students can learn as they engage with local communities in working type environments
  • Crossing Borders: The eternal quest for a global space as students interact with the other
  • Global Xenophobia on the Rise of Brexit/Trump? What is our role?
  • Cuba: Future U.S. Relations – Impact on Study Abroad

Our Call for Papers has now closed, but we encourage non-presenters and presenters alike to register for the conference. Any interested faculty, staff, and students from local and international universities, institutions, and study abroad providers are welcome. Registration is now open through February 1st.

A pre-conference workshop from the Forum on Education Abroad is also open to any conference participants. We encourage registration for this “Health, Safety, Security, & Risk Management (Standard 8)” workshop by February 2nd. Click here for registration and more information.

For questions, please contact Laura Wise Person at 862-8629 or lwise1@tulane.edu.

Apply for the Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba

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Teaching Cuban Culture & Society: A Summer Educator Institute in Cuba
Havana, Cuba | June 23 – July 7, 2018
Program Application
Application Deadline: March 2, 2018

Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute at Tulane University join forces with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies to take K-16 educators to Cuba. This is our fourth year running the Cuban Culture & Society K-16 Educator Institute and we are excited about this year’s itinerary. The institute will approach Cuban society and culture form a multidisciplinary perspective focused on the arts, the geography, and history of the country. Innovative programming and annual summer teacher institutes over the past three years provide the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and studying the region. Taking advantage of Tulane’s relationship with the University of Havana and Cuba’s National Union of Writers and Artists, the institute equips teachers with multidisciplinary content, curricular resources, and methods of inquiry for developing that approach in their K-12 classrooms. Conducted in English by Professor Carolina Caballero, the institute will explore current trends and issues in Cuban culture and society through readings, films, and lectures. The program includes a series of talks by prominent Cuban intellectuals and local field trips to important political and cultural sights throughout Havana.

This two-week program provides the unique opportunity to work on developing lesson plans while exploring the sights and sounds of a nation and country that remain obscured behind political rhetoric and misinformation. Recent economic changes on the island have provoked a series of social and cultural transformations that have left Cubans and the entire world wondering what could be next for the island and the Revolution. Don’t miss the chance to witness some of these challenges and triumphs firsthand and get the opportunity to bring your experience back to your students in the classroom.

The trip will include a pre-departure orientation and two weeks in Cuba. The institute incorporates visits to local museums and exposes participants to arts organizations, schools, and teachers from the country’s national literacy campaign. Participants will stay within walking distance of the Malecón, the university, and many cultural venues. There will be group excursions to the historic Che Guevara monument, a visit to the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a special visit to the town of Hershey, the town developed by Milton Hershey to begin his chocolate enterprise with the sugar from Cuba’s plantations. There will also be group excursions to the historic cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, Playa Girón, and Viñales, focusing on their role in the development of the economy and culture of the country

PROGRAM COST: $3,500
The cost will include a shared room and two meals a day, medical insurance, airfare to/from Havana from Tampa, Florida*, airport transportation in Havana to/from residence, OFAC-licensed academic visa, and specialized tours and outings.

*Airfare to/from Tampa, Florida, a one-night hotel stay in Tampa, incidental costs, and extra meals and expenses are not included in the program cost. You are responsible for your own air flight to/from Tampa, FL.

PROGRAM APPLICATION
Those interested in applying must be a K-12 educator or librarian. There is no Spanish language requirement for this program. The application deadline is March 2, 2018, at 5:00 PM.

Please note: This program is only open to K-12 educators who are currently teaching, are pre-service teachers or are serving in a school or public library.

PROPOSED ITINERARY – 15 DAYS

Day 1 – U.S./HAVANA, CUBA
Depart from Tampa, FL, Upon arrival, enjoy dinner and a welcome reception followed by an informal walk and people watching on the Malecón.
Day 2 – HAVANA
Havana Vieja Tour with local preservation experts to discuss in depth the history of local landmarks, historical preservation efforts, and future plans. Visit arte corte, a barber shop and hair-dressing school in the Santo Angel neighborhood developed to promote skills in the community and support the local economy and meet with local community leaders, students and elderly folks at the community center. Presentation on AfroCuban dance with musical expert Cari Diez; opportunity to interact with the musicians and staff.
Day 3 – HAVANA
Lecture with Professor Alfredo Prieto on Cuba Since the Special Period. Curriculum development workshop. Visit the Cuba Council of Churches to meet local people and participate in a seminar about the organization’s work in the areas of youth, agriculture, social welfare, and international communications.
Day 4 – HAVANA
Walking tour of Calle Obispo in the morning with Professor Rafael Hernández. Meet the instructors and students of La Colmenita, an after-school program that uses song and dance performance as a social development tool.
Day 5 – HAVANA
Presentation by Professor Isabel Rigol on current challenges facing Havana’s effort to preserve its architecture and heritage. Visit to the Escuelas Nacional de Arte and meet with students and faculty. Evening walk and visit to the Cañonazo at the Morro.
Day 6 – VINALES
Day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Viñales for landscape and village exploration. Explore the mountainous magotes and visit and meet local tobacco farmers working in their fields and storehouses. At the Casa del Veguero we’ll have an introduction to tobacco farming and tobacco production. Visit with locals in the town of Viñales; lunch will be a community event shared with local families, followed by a visit to a children’s art center.
Day 7 – ALAMAR
Visit to an Organipónico (urban agrarian farm) in Alamar to explore sustainable farming in Cuba and learn about Cuban cuisine from local gardeners and Noel Pina, the manager of the garden. After lunch explore the community project Muraleando, where local artists have been changing a downtrodden neighborhood into a living work of art.
Day 8 – HAVANA/JAIMANITAS
Visit to Cementerio Colón and interact with the dozens of pilgrims who line up daily at the tomb of Amelia Goyri, said to grant miracles. Continue on to the Plaza de la Revolución. Lunch and afternoon visit to workshop of ceramic artist, José Fuster, who has turned his neighborhood into a unique, whimsical work of public art. Curriculum development in the evening.
Day 9 – SANTA CLARA, TRINIDAD
Travel to Trinidad via Santa Clara, a town founded by 175 people on July 15, 1689. It is the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Visit to the Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara. Also visit the historic sugar plantation of Manaca Iznaga before arriving in Trinidad.
Day 10 – TRINIDAD
Explore this UNESCO World Heritage site, founded on December 23, 1514 by Diego Velázquez de Cuellar. Trinidad was a central piece of Cuba’s sugar-based economy. Guided city tour with the city historian. Visit the Trinidad library to learn about the importance of libraries and debate questions of intellectual freedom with the staff. Meet with local entrepreneur David Alamar, owner of a private paladar (Davimart) to discuss cuentaproprismo in Cuba.
Day 11 – CIENFUEGOS
We will head to Cienfuegos, a town known for its architectural beauty which reveals its French colonial roots. Visit the Beny More School of Art that trains students in the visual and musical arts and is one of the top ten middle-level art schools in Cuba.
Day 12 – HAVANA
We will hear from children’s book author Olga Marta Pérez about the children’s/ youth Literacy Scene in Cuba today. In the afternoon, we will visit the Cuban Collection of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes accompanied by a curator.
Day 13 – PLAYA GIRON (Site of Bay of Pigs), Ciénega de Zapata, Playa Larga
Day excursion to the historic site of the Bay of Pigs, one of the landing sites for the 1961 US-backed invasion. Visit the Finca Fiesta Campesina farm, the Playa Girón museum, the Parque Ciénaga de Zapata, the Laguna del Tesoro, and the Taino Indian village.
Day 14 – HAVANA
Wrap-up curriculum workshop followed by a free afternoon ending in a celebratory dinner.
Day 15 – HAVANA/U.S.
Morning departure for the U.S.

Explore our past trips through these photos and curricula:

Program Application

For more information, please contact Denise Woltering-Vargas at dwolteri@tulane.edu or call the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at 504-862-3143.