Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

School Vouchers: What Louisiana can Learn from Chile

By Ludovico Feoli

In light of Governor Jindalâ’‘¬’“¢s proposal to vastly expand Louisianaâ’‘¬’“¢s school voucher system it might be useful to consider the track record of similar programs elsewhere. To that effect, Chileâ’‘¬’“¢s experience might be informative. Starting in the 1980s that country implemented the worldâ’‘¬’“¢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 â’‘¬Å“The Chilean reforms of the 1980s were not practicable, did not turn education upside down, and did not dramatically improve school performanceâ’‘¬Â (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 systemâ’‘¬‘€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 constituentsâ’‘¬‘€teachers, parents, staff, students, neighborsâ’‘¬‘€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 Louisianaâ’‘¬’“¢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 informationâ’‘¬‘€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. â’‘¬Å“For those concerned with the quality and cost of education in the United States, the answers lie elsewhereâ’‘¬Â (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

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

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LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship

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The Latin Americanist Graduate Organization (LAGO) is pleased to announce its Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship. This full-day event will include a series of presentations featuring graduate students, faculty, and local leaders working at the intersection of academia and community. All are welcome to attend one or more of three talks. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.


SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE

9 – 9:30 AM | Breakfast

9:30 – 11 AM | “The Role of the Arts in Community Engagement and Activism”
Moderator: Megan Flattley (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Jeffery U. Darensbourg (Tribal Councilperson and enrolled member of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas), Gabrielle Garcia Steib (Media Artist and Writer), Dr. Edith Wolfe (Stone Center Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs)

11 – 11:30 AM | Break/Networking

11:30 – 1 PM | “Co-Creating Digital Testimonios with Latinx Youth: A Community-Engaged Approach to Scholarship and Action”
Presenters: Jennifer Miller Scarnato (City, Culture & Community PhD Candidate) and Rebeca Sauly Santa María Granados (Youth Member of Puentes)
Discussion Moderator: Dr. James D. Huck, Jr. (Stone Center Assistant Director for Graduate Programs and Puentes Board Member)

1 – 2 PM | Lunch

2 – 3:30 PM | “Guiding Principles and Strategies: The Social Sciences and Community Engagement”
Moderator: Carolina Timoteo de Oliveira (Stone Center PhD Candidate)
Panelists: Dr. Claudia Chávez-Arguelles (Tulane Anthropology Faculty), Ruth Idakula (Critical Race Theory & Anti-Racist Praxis educator and facilitator), and Linett Luna Tovar (Stone Center Masters Program Alumna)

3:30 – 4:30 | Networking/Wrap-up

The LAGO Symposium on Community-Engaged Scholarship is co-sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Tulane Mellon Graduate Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship.

Latin American Writers Series: Damián Cabrera

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Join us for an interview with Damián Cabrera about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Damián Cabrera was born in Asunción Paraguay and grew up in Alto Paraná along the Brazilian border. His publications, which explore the realities of the Triple Frontier, include one collection of short stories, sh… horas de contar… (2006) and the novels Xiru (2012)—winner of the Roque Gaona Prize—and Xe (2019). Cabrera has served as editor of the journals El Tereré (2006-2012) and Ku’Ótro (2008) and is an active member of artistic organizations such as Semenario Espacio/Crítico and Ediciones de la Ura. He also teaches film at the Universidad Columbia de Paraguay and art and design at the Universidad Nacional de Paraguay.

The 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: "City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us"

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Tulane Department of History, and the Middle American Research Institute invite you to the 2020 Dr. H. Barry and Lucy V. Holt Lecture in Ethnohistory: “City of Blood, City of Flowers: Why the Aztecs Enchant Us” presented by Dr. Davíd Carrasco.

Davíd Carrasco is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at Harvard University. A historian of religions with a particular interest in Mesoamerican cities and the Mexican-American borderlands, Carrasco’s wide-ranging work has explored the challenges of postcolonial ethnography and theory as well as the practices and symbolic nature of ritual violence in comparative perspective. In conjunction with Mexican archaeologists, he has carried out research in excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan resulting in books such as Religions of Mesoamerica, City of Sacrifice, To Change Place, and Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire. Carrasco’s work has also traced the religious dimensions of the Latino experience, exploring themes such as mestizaje, the myth of Aztlan, transculturation, and La Virgen de Guadalupe. Most recently, Carrasco oversaw production of a documentary about his longtime friend and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. He edited and contributed to the companion volume Goodness & the Literary Imagination. Carrasco is a recipient of the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor the Mexican government gives to a foreign national.

The lecture is being held in conjunction with the Tulane Maya Symposium and will be followed by light refreshments before the keynote address by Dorie Reents-Budet. Both the Holt Lecture and keynote address are free and open to the public.

Latin American Writers Series: Andrea Palet

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Join us for an interview with Andrea Palet about her life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Andrea Palet is an editor, columnist, and educator from Chile. With almost three decades of experience in the publishing field, she has edited magazines and books in both Europe and South America. In 2014, she became the founding editorial director of Editorial Laurel in Santiago, Chile. Under her leadership, the house has released the works of more than 20 novelists, essayists, and chroniclers. Palet also oversees the Master of Editing program at the Universidad de Diego Portales. A collection of her columns, Leo y olvido, was released in 2018 by Ediciones Bastante.

Latin American Writers Series: Rodrigo Fuentes

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Join us for an interview with Rodrigo Fuentes about his life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Rodrigo Fuentes is a Guatemalan-born writer of short stories. He received the II Premio Centroamericano Carátula in 2014, and his collection Trucha Panza arriba was a finalist for the 2018 Premio Gabriel García Márquez . His works have been published in Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, as well as in translation in France and Scotland. Fuentes is also the co-founder and editor of the magazine Suelta and of the digital publishing house and literary journal Traviesa. He currently teaches in the Department of Spanish at College of the Holy Cross.

Latin American Writers Series: Dolores Reyes

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Join us for an interview with Dolores Reyes about her life, interests, and influences. The discussion will be followed by an open Q&A. This event will be held in Spanish.

About the Latin American Writers Series

This series brings together Latin America’s most representative creative voices and the editorial entrepreneurs that publish them. By way of interviews and presentations of various editorial missions, the guests will shed light on a literary world shaped by the contemporary issues of the continent. Moving forward, their conversations will comprise the centerpiece of a digital archive that introduces their ideas to a global audience.

Este serie reúne a los autores más representativos de la escritura continental y los editores que los publican. A través de entrevistas y presentaciones de proyectos editoriales, los invitados explorarán los vínculos entre el mundo literario y la realidad continental. Sus conversaciones se convertirán después en el eje de un archivo digital que busca llevar estas ideas a un público global.

About the Author

Dolores Reyes was born in the western part of Buenos Aires. With degrees in Primary Education and Classics, she currently works as a teacher in a school in Pablo Podestá, just 150 meters from the burial sites of Melina Romero, Araceli Ramos, and the other victims of femicide who have impacted her life and writing. Her first novel, Cometierra, was published in 2019 in Argentina and Spain. It is currently being translated and edited for publication in the Netherlands, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Poland, and the United States.