Dallas Morning News Op-Ed Explores  School Voucher Failures Nationwide

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Oct. 5, 2022 

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ICYMI: Dallas Morning News Op-Ed Explores School Voucher Failures Nationwide 

Vouchers have produced some of the “largest negative impacts on student learning.”  

So why do Texas politicians want them?  

DALLAS — On Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News published a well-timed op-ed from Dr. Josh Cowen, a professor of education policy at Michigan State University, that debunks many of the claims made by Texas proponents of school voucher programs.  

Dr. Cowen’s piece published just before critical midterm elections and an upcoming legislative session that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have indicated will feature school voucher bills. Dr. Cowen examines data and research from other states with voucher programs already in place: Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. 

The results? “All have shown some of the largest negative impacts on student learning ever seen among education researchers,” Cowen writes, before turning his attention to neighboring Louisiana:  

“When school voucher programs were created and expanded after Hurricane Katrina, two separate research teams studied how students performed after switching from public to private schools. The results were shocking: student learning loss was almost double what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to test scores more recently, and those voucher results persisted over time.” 

That dismal effect on student test scores — something of great importance in Texas, which inked a $388 million deal last year with testing companies — is only part of the story. As Cowen notes, private schools benefiting from taxpayer vouchers in states like Wisconsin fail at an incredible rate.  

“In Wisconsin, home of the nation’s oldest voucher program, 40% of private schools accepting voucher-paid students have failed during the program’s history. All told, 12% of taxpayer dollars in Wisconsin have gone to schools that had to shut down.” 

Cowen’s data also debunks the claim at the heart of Texas proponents’ arguments for school vouchers: that many parents want and will take advantage of the opportunity to send their children to private schools.  

“In Arizona, which just passed a large expansion to its voucher program, 75% of applications came from students already in private school without taxpayers footing the bill — a number similar to the share of existing private students joining voucher programs elsewhere as well. Vouchers are really an idea to subsidize existing choices.”  

This data from Arizona mirrors polling earlier this year from Texas Parent PAC, which found that 75% of Texas parents who do not currently send their children to private schools are unlikely ever to do so.  

“With this kind of track record, you’ve got to wonder who stands to benefit from bringing school vouchers to Texas,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT, in response to the op-ed. “It sure isn’t our kids.”  

Read the full op-ed in The Dallas Morning News 


The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. 

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