New studies validate Louisiana’s school choice program in terms of promoting racial integration

By on November 12, 2013
school choice

Two new studies of Louisiana’s school choice program suggest that the use of private school vouchers by low-income students in low-performing schools has a positive effect on racial integration.

These findings are timely as they run counter to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging that Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) impedes federal school-desegregation efforts.

Louisiana piloted the program in New Orleans in 2008 and expanded it statewide in 2012. Thousands of students have transferred out of their low-performing assigned schools and into private schools of their choosing.

The first study conducted out of the University of Arkansas found that these transfers overwhelmingly improved integration in the public schools that students leave as well as the private schools that participating students attend.

Of the 5,000 students who used LSP vouchers in the 2012-13 school year, all were from families with incomes less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line, and about 90 percent were black.

Specifically, the Arkansas study found, just 17 percent of LSP schools are racially homogenous, compared to over one-third of public schools that previously enrolled these students. In 83 percent of cases, an overwhelming majority, LSP transfers had a positive impact on the racial integration of the student’s original public school.

“Based on this evidence, we conclude that the LSP is unlikely to have harmed desegregation efforts in Louisiana,” the authors write. “To the contrary, the statewide school voucher program appears to have brought greater integration to Louisiana’s public schools.”

These findings were validated by a separate study by Christine Rossell of Boston University who was retained to analyze data for the DOJ case. Rossell concludes, “The 2012-13 Louisiana scholarship program to date has no negative effect on school desegregation in the 34 school districts under a desegregation court order.”

There may be other reasons to oppose school choice, but from these studies, it appears that concerns about racial integration are abated.