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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Regulators without Borders? Labor Inspectors in Latin America and Beyond

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Please join us for the Lecture & Luncheon, “Regulators without Borders? Labor Inspectors in Latin America and Beyond” by Andrew Shrank, Olive Watson Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

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The substantial body of literature addresses the growth of transnational regulatory networks that purport to foster learning, legitimacy, and coordination among national regulatory agencies. But network membership is neither universal nor well understood. Are regulators more likely to go abroad when they are vulnerable to domestic political pressure, or when their independence and influence are intact?

Rituales de pubertad, relaciones sociales y relaciones con la naturaleza. El caso mbya-guaraní (Argentina)

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Please join us on Friday, April 10 3-4:30pm, LAL Seminar Room for a work-in-progress talk by Dr. Marilyn Cebolla Badie, Universidad Nacional de Misiones and LAL Greenleaf Fellow 2014-2015, entitled “Rituales de pubertad, relaciones sociales y relaciones con la naturaleza. El caso mbya-guaraní (Argentina) (Puberty Rites, Social Relationships and Relations with Nature. The Case of the Mbya-Guaraní (Argentina)).”

The talk will be in Spanish.

Talk Abstract: Actualmente, ante los cambios que enfrentan los pueblos indígenas por el contacto permanente con las sociedades nacionales, los rituales, y entre éstos los ritos de pasaje a la madurez sexual, comienzan a desaparecer o se realizan de forma parcial afectando, según explican los indígenas, la educación tradicional de los niños y la armonía de la vida social. La presente investigación tiene como objetivo conocer y analizar los rituales de pubertad entre los mbya (familia lingüística tupi-guaraní) y su relación con la naturaleza. En estos ritos, niñas y varones aprenden a comportarse según los modelos femenino y masculino de la sociedad mbya, porque los cambios involucran no sólo al cuerpo sino al nuevo status que tendrán de allí en más. La pubertad parece ser una de las etapas más críticas y peligrosas del ciclo vital mbya. El alma de la persona se encuentra en un estado de gran vulnerabilidad y puede ser presa de las alteridades extrahumanas de la selva. Es por esto que deben extremarse los cuidados que incluyen restricciones alimentarias y un fuerte control del comportamiento, aunque muchas de estas precauciones ya no pueden llevarse a cabo debido a la deforestación y los drásticos cambios que afectan su vida cotidiana.

Currently, indigenous social and cultural traditions are facing substantial changes due to permanent contact with national societies. Some rituals, among them initiation rites, are beginning to disappear or are performed in an incomplete way, affecting the traditional education of children and social harmony, according to indigenous sources themselves. My research analyzes puberty rites in the Mbya ethnic group (of the Tupi-Guaraní linguistic family) and their relationship with nature. In these rituals, girls and boys must learn to behave according to feminine and masculine models of Mbya society, respectively, since the changes they are undergoing are thought to involve not only the body but also the new social status they will thereby acquire. Puberty seems to be one of the most critical and dangerous stages of the Mbya life cycle. The soul of the initiate is believed to be vulnerable to possession by extra-human alterities dwelling in the forest. The initiate exercises considerable caution in all behavioral respects, including observance of food restrictions. However, it has become increasingly difficult and, in some cases, not possible to observe these practices anymore due to deforestation and drastic changes the daily life of the Mbya.

Art Exhibit: Maya Ruins and the Passage of Time: The Stephens and Catherwood Project

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans, in conjunction with the 2015 Tulane Maya Symposium (TMS), is hosting an art exhibit by Jay Frogel featuring photographs and images of ancient Maya sites. Frogel mixes modern photographs with drawings from the 1800s to show the passage of time at these sites. The opening reception will be held on March 19th.

To register for the K-12 teacher workshop or the reminder of the Maya Symposium please visit the registration page.

Le voyage des mots: Comparaison des lexiques naturalistes des langues tupi-guarani (Amérique du Sud)

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The Center for Scholars, the Department of French and Italian, and the Linguistics Program of Tulane University cordially invite you to attend a lecture in French by a distinguished specialist on the family of Tupi-Guarani languages.

Dr. Françoise Grenand is an anthropologist and Emeritus Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, French National Research Council) of France. She is renowned for her pioneering work on the vocabulary of Wayãpi and other indigenous languages in French Guiana and elsewhere in lowland South America, including Brazil. Dr. Grenand will lecture on Tupi-Guarani languages and vocabularies based on her many years of research among the Wayãpi people of French Guiana. She will present a Powerpoint in English to accompany her lecture, which will be delivered in French.

ABSTRACT:
Au cours de leur histoire, de nombreux peuples ont migré, emportant avec eux leur langue, trésor précieux et fragile. Découvrant des écosystèmes inédits, ils ont dû s'adapter et intégrer dans leur langue des mots nouveaux pour nommer les entités nouvelles. Prenant l'exemple des peuples Tupi-Guarani d'Amérique du Sud, la présente conférence entend expliquer leur démarche dans les lexiques zoologiques et botaniques. Des termes immotivés sont les témoins précieux des migrations anciennes. Des termes motivés descripteurs restent souvent neutres et de moindre portée. Motivés ou non, un certain nombre de termes, porteurs d’une grande charge sociétale, sont intéressants dans la comparaison linguistique et culturelle.

A Talk by Mariano Siskind: "La primera Guerra mundial como evento latinoamericano: Modernismo, cosmopolitismo y distancia afectiva"

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The Department of Spanish & Portuguese graduate students are pleased to invite you to the talk "La primera Guerra mundial como evento latinoamericano: Modernismo, cosmopolitismo y distancia afectiva", by John l Prof. Mariano Siskind, from Harvard University.
The talk will take place Friday, April 17th, 2015, at 16:30 in Newcomb Hall 407. A small reception will follow.
Below you can find an abstract of the talk, which will be held in Spanish.

If you have any questions, please contact Camilo A. Malagón at cmalagon@tulane.edu, or Estefanía Flores at cflores@tulane.edu.

Hope to see you there.

"La primera Guerra mundial como evento latinoamericano: Modernismo, cosmopolitismo y distancia afectiva"

Resumen: ¿Se puede considerar a la primera guerra mundial como un conflicto latinoamericano? Cuando abordamos esta pregunta en apariencia irrisoria desde la perspectiva de la historia literaria y cultural, emerge un archivo latinoamericano de experimentos estéticos sobre la guerra que interroga su mundialidad y el lugar de la cultura latinoamericana en el contexto de la globalización de la cultura moderna, De Darío a Nervo, de Gómez Carrillo a Alejandro Sux, muchos escritores modernistas presenciaron la guerra desde muy cerca y desde muy lejos, pero siempre tratando de achicar la distancia geopolítica que los separaba de la escena bélica a partir de una compleja identificación discursiva con la empresa de los aliados. Esta necesidad de suturar la distancia que los separa de las trincheras del frente occidental pone en evidencia el campo de fuerzas simbólicas y afectivas que se constituye a partir de los intentos de los modernistas por inscribir su proyecto estético en un escenario transcultural que ellos mismos invisten con significantes universales.

Summer K-12 Teacher Institute: Teaching Afro-Brazilian Identity in the K-12 Classroom

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The Latin American Resource Center, the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute and the Portuguese Flagship Program at the University of Georgia are presenting a K-12 teacher workshop on the Portuguese language and Brazilian Culture. The workshop will take place on the Tulane University Uptown Campus.

DEADLINE TO APPLY IS APRIL 5, 2015!

K-12 educators of any discipline and grade-level are welcome to apply to attend this 5 day institute. The focus of the institute is on the language, culture, and performance of Brazil. The workshop will include exposure to the Portuguese language, discussions with scholars of Brazilian culture and performance, viewings of Brazilian films, and performances by Brazilian groups. Throughout the week, educators will work to develop interdisciplinary curricula, which they can bring back to their schools to teach and share with colleagues. There is a specialized track to this institute in order to better support participants. There is a Portuguese Language track which consists of intensive morning language sessions for those interested in receiving a crash course in basic Portuguese. This track is open to participants with Spanish language background and little to no Portuguese training. While this track is meeting every morning, sessions for those interested in cultures of Brazil will take place. Please make sure to identify if you would like to be in the language track in your application form at the bottom of this page.

Registration Information
Participants have the option of registering under three affordable rates:

  • Basic Registration – $50 [includes all materials, parking permit for 5 days, internet access and registration to entire program with no lodging or meals.]
  • Full Registration – $250 [includes all above plus includes lodging (with linens) in a Tulane residence hall 4 nights, with 2 meals a day, and access to Tulane Reilly Fitness Center.]
  • Deluxe Registration – $300 [includes everything above plus guarantees a single room in the residence hall.]

The 2015 Summer K-12 Teacher Institute, Somos Nós: Teaching Afro-Brazilian Identity is a 20-hour program designed for K-12 teachers, librarians, or administrative staff. K-12 educators will benefit from this timely, interactive program on one of the world's strongest and most influential economies in the world, Brazil. The program is sponsored by Tulane University, the University of Georgia, and Vanderbilt University through a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant.

DEADLINE TO APPLY IS APRIL 5, 2015!

A detailed schedule will be posted shortly. For more information visit the institute webpage

For more information, please contact Denise Woltering Vargas at 504-862-3143 or dwolteri@tulane.edu