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 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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Interpretation and Literary Agency - A talk by Héctor Hoyos

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese presents a talk by Dr. Héctor Hoyos, Assistant Professor of Latin American literature and culture at Stanford University, entitled “Interpretation and Literary Agency” on January 12th at 4:30 PM. Dr. Hoyos’s research areas include visual culture and critical theory, as well as comparative and philosophical approaches to literature. His teaching covers various periods and subregions, with an emphasis on contemporary fiction and literary theory.

Talk Abstract:
Taking César Aira’s El té de Dios (2010) as a starting point, in this talk Héctor Hoyos makes a materialist defense of close reading. Less than methodology and more than unreflective praxis, non-instrumental engagement with literariness can repair fractures between nature and culture, human and nonhuman. Hoyos builds on Aira’s estrangement of tales of origin –creation, evolution, the Big Bang– to demonstrate how certain interpretative practices extend the eventfulness of literature and allow us to re-think the role of fiction within the new materialist turn.

For more information, please contact Camilo Malagon (cmalagon@tulane.edu).

Hegemony Versus Globalization: Protest, Human Rights and the Struggle for Power in Post-Chávez Venezuela

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The Sociology Department is pleased to present a talk by Dr. David Smilde, the Charles E and Leo M Favrot Professor of Sociology at Tulane University, and Jennifer Triplett, who holds a MA from the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. The talk ““Hegemony vs. Globalization: Protest, Human Rights and the Struggle for Power in Post-Chávez Venezuela,” will be held on Friday, February 12th, at 3:30 PM.

"Origins" Art Exhibit

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is pleased to present the art exhibit, “Origins” by Mexican artist Ganthaus. There will be an opening reception on February 18th beginning at 6 PM.

For more information please visit the exhibit website.

Ancient Maya Women: K-16 Educator Workshop

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LARC, in conjunction with the Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and the New Orleans Museum of Art, is hosting a teacher workshop on the ancient Maya. The workshop will introduce information on women in the ancient Maya world as well as providing activities to introduce into the classroom.

REGISTER HERE.

FRIDAY MARCH 4, 2016

8:30 – 8:45 am
Welcome
Tracy Kennan, New Orleans Museum of Art; Denise Woltering Vargas, Tulane University; Marcello Canuto, Tulane University

8:45 – 9:30 am
Introduction to the Maya
Evan Parker, Tulane University

9:30 – 10:30 am
Introductory Glyph Workshop
David Chatelain, Tulane University; Mary Kate Kelly, Tulane University; Luke Auld-Thomas, Tulane University

10:30 – 11:15 am
Teaching the Maya in the Classroom
Sarah Donovan, DePaul University

11:15 am – 12:00 pm
Tour of the Art of the Americas Exhibit & Other K-12 Resources
Marc Zender, Tulane University; Paul Tarver, New Orleans Museum of Art; Tracy Kennan, New Orleans Museum of Art

LUNCH
Lunch is included in registration.

1:15 – 2:15 pm
Maya Women and Food Preparation: from ancient to modern times
Traci Ardren, University of Miami

2:15 – 2:45 pm
Curriculum Breakout
Sarah Donovan, DePaul University; Denise Woltering Vargas, Tulane University; Tracy Kennan, New Orleans Museum of Art; Rachel Horowitz, Tulane University

2:45 – 3:00 pm
Evaluation

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13th Annual Tulane Maya Symposium "Ixiktaak: Ancient Maya Women"

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The Middle American Research Institute, in conjunction with Far Horizons, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans, and the New Orleans Museum of Art, is proud to present the Thirteenth Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and Workshop. This year’s symposium, titled “Ixiktaak: Ancient Maya Women,” will focus on the significance of women in ancient Maya society. The invited scholars will explore this topic from different disciplinary perspectives, including archaeology, iconography, physical anthropology, and epigraphy to illuminate the names, roles, lives, accomplishments, and practices of women in ancient Maya society. Recent research in the Maya area has dramatically enhanced our understanding of gender roles in ancient Maya society particularly women’s daily lives, their role in power relations and regional politics, their relevance to and symbolic meaning within religion and ritual, and the economics of gender. New texts, new analytical techniques, and new discoveries discussed in these presentations will help us appreciate how complex and dynamic Classic Maya notions of gender were.

The keynote address will be given by Dr. Mary Miller of Yale University who will speak about her recent research on Jaina figurines.

To register for Friday – Sunday’s program, please REGISTER HERE.

For more information, visit the symposium homepage.

THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 2016
Consulate of Mexico 901 Convention Center Blvd.

6:00 – 8:00 PM
Art Exhibit Opening Reception
Free and open to the public.

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FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2016
New Orleans Museum of Art 1 Diboll Circle, City Park

8:30 – 3:00 PM
Professional Development Workshop for K-16 Educators

9:15 – 3:00 PM
Introductory Glyph Workshop

6:00 – 7:15 PM
KeynoteThe Women of Maya Figurines: A Mystery Within and Without
Mary Miller

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SATURDAY, MARCH 5, 2016
Freeman Auditorium, Woldenberg Art Center, Tulane University

8:00 – 5:00 PM
Symposium

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SUNDAY, MARCH 6, 2016
Tulane University, Dinwiddie Hall

9:00 – 12:00 PM
Hieroglyphic Forum: New Texts from La Corona
Marc Zender, David Stuart, Simon Martin

10:30 – 12:00 PM
Representations of Women in the Books of Chilam Balam
Amy George-Hirons

2:00 – 5:00 pm
Afternoon Workshops

For more information or to register, visit the symposium homepage.

Tropical Exposures: Photography, Film, and Visual Culture in a Caribbean Frame

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Tropical Exposures: Photography, Film, and Visual Culture in a Caribbean Frame
March 10-12, 2016
Tulane University
New Orleans, LA

We offer our conference as a forum in which to peruse and absorb the visual turn in contemporary inquiry from the unique vantage points of the Caribbean, circum-Caribbean and Caribbean diasporas. We conceive the tropical exposure as a frame for representing the region’s strengths and vulnerabilities and for questioning the interaction of Antillean sensibilities with a plethora of images and mediascapes. Our invited keynote speakers include photographer Virginia Beahan and artist Francisco Crespo, whose work appears on this page.

Tropical Exposures welcomes proposals for papers that address any facet of Caribbean visual representation in photography, film, art, popular culture, and other media, as well as the interaction of word and image more generally. Scholars are also encouraged to present proposals that consider social and cultural shifts toward the increasing intermediality of representation in the Caribbean frame.

Conference Updates:
January 14, 2016: To view the panel lineups and conference schedule, please click here.

Registration Information
Regular Registration (begins Jan. 20):

  • $175 Faculty
  • $115 Graduate Students and Independent Scholars

Please click here to access the conference registration form, or click the “Register Online” button on the bottom or top of this page.

Conference Hotel Information
The Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute has arranged a group block and discounted rate at the Hampton Inn New Orleans Garden District. We have reserved a block of rooms for March 9 – March 12, 2016. The special room rate of $169.00/night will be available until February 8, 2016 or until the group block is sold out, whichever comes first. The Hampton Inn Garden District hotel offers a free hot breakfast, free high speed internet in every room, and free on-site parking.

To make your reservations online, please click here to access the hotel reservation page and book your stay by February 8th.
You may also book your room by phone by calling 504-899-9990. The group code for the special rate is “CSI”; please mention this when making reservations by phone.
For hotel address and other information, please visit the Hampton Inn hotel’s website

Conference events will take place on Tulane’s uptown campus at the Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC), 201 Boggs, New Orleans, LA 70118. Transportation from the conference hotel to Tulane’s uptown campus will be provided. We will be putting together a brief guide to the city of New Orleans for quick reference about local transportation, restaurants, etc. for your convenience.