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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Join the Pebbles Center at the Children’s Resource Center branch of the New Orleans Public Library for bilingual story time. We will be reading ‘Twas Nochebuena and celebrating Christmas in the summer! _’Twas Nochebuena’ is a 2015 Americas Book Award Commended Title.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas Exhibit

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MEXICO IN NEW ORLEANS: A Tale of Two Americas
May 5 through August 30, 2015
Opening reception on Cinco de Mayo (Tuesday, May 5)

From May 5 through August 30, 2015, the LSU Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, LA will present Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas. The exhibition explores the artistic exchange between Louisiana and Mexico from the 1920s through 1950s, a period of vibrant cultural and artistic connections between the two regions. The exhibition tells the story of a decades-long dialogue between Mexican and Louisianan artists that critically shaped the art of both countries, resulting in artistic affinities that continue to connect Louisiana and Mexico today.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a series of celebrated Mexican art exhibitions brought the art and culture of modern Mexico to Louisiana. By 1928, the New Orleans Times-Picayune had proclaimed Mexican artist Diego Rivera "the greatest painter on the North American continent," and encouraged Louisiana artists to take counsel from modern Mexican art. In 1930, a critic for the Times-Picayune urged Louisiana artists to turn their gaze from the art of Europe and towards the art of Mexico, writing that Mexican art was "more nearly related to us emotionally" than European art.

By the late 1920s, Louisianan artists like William Spratling, Caroline Durieux, Alberta Kinsey, and Conrad A. Albrizio began travelling to Mexico to learn from Mexican artists like Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Ruffino Tamayo, and Carlos Orozco Romero. These artists became friends, colleagues, and frequent collaborators, organizing exhibitions in both Mexico City and New Orleans that celebrated their artistic alliance. Diego Rivera's portrait of Louisiana printmaker Caroline Durieux, for example, was shown at least three times in exhibitions at the Belles Arts in Mexico City, and also appeared at the New Orleans Arts and Crafts Club, paired with the work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. By the early 1930s, the strength of this artistic interaction
between Mexico and Louisiana caused a writer for The New Orleanian to characterize Louisianan art as having a "distinct Mexican tinge." By 1933, the Times-Picayune cited an undeniably "strong Mexican trend" in Louisiana art.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas is the first major museum exhibition to explore this captivating international cultural exchange. features more than 80 works by both Mexican and Louisianan artists who were part of this captivating international cultural exchange and will be accompanied by a richly illustrated bilingual exhibition catalogue designed by the LSU School of Art. The exhibition features artwork drawn from the LSU Museum of Art's collection of works by Diego Rivera and Caroline Durieux, as well as artworks by other prominent artists like David Alfaro Siqueiros, Boyd Cruise, and Elizabeth Catlett borrowed from public and private collections including the Historic New Orleans Collection and the Latin American Library at Tulane University. In the exhibition, paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints by these artists will be supplemented with sculpture, furniture, decorative arts, and ephemera such as pamphlets and postcards which help tell the story of Mexico in New Orleans-and New Orleans in Mexico.

Mexico in New Orleans: A Tale of Two Americas is curated by Dr. Katie A. Pfohl, and organized by the LSU Museum of Art.

Call for Papers: Tropical Exposures Conference

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

The 2016 Tropical Exposures conference is now accepting abstracts through September 15, 2015. Click here to view or download the official Call for Papers.

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.

Papers may focus on one terrain, image-maker, or form of media, or employ comparative strategies. Papers may be in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese, though English is preferred. We anticipate creating an edited volume of expanded essays around the notion of Tropical Exposures, co-edited by Ana López and Marilyn Miller. We encourage participants to prepare abstracts and presentations with an eye to inclusion in a print publication. Papers might address some of the following tropics or questions in their myriad Caribbean contexts:

-Conditions of image production in the torrid zones
-Documentary film and the aims of full exposure
-Still life and the notion of static representation
-Visual literacy and lens-based scholarship
-Image and intellectual property
-Snapshots, clips, collages and other image fragments
-Icons of visual culture from Korda’s Che to Cabrera Infante’s Códac
-Ruins as sites of deterioration and inspiration
-Visual representation, race and post-race
-Caribbean images as ephemera
-Realisms, surrealisms, hyperrealisms
-Museums, biennales, and other sites of collective visual consumption
-Code-switching between media
-Virtual and interactive visual systems
-Word and Image studies in and on the Caribbean
-Facades
-Censorship and the Image
-Moving pictures and sentiment
-Patronage, connoisseurship, and institutional support
-Captions
-Image saturation and contamination
-Interiority and exteriority
-Fair use of the Caribbean image
-Tourism and other circuitous systems
-New languages and theories of visual technique and critique

Please send a proposal and 250-word abstract by September 15, 2015 to <ccsi@tulane.edu>, including the abstract as an attachment to the email. Please include the title of your paper, your name (and the names of any co-presenters), institutional affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and email address. We welcome pre-constituted panels. If submitting a panel for consideration, please include a top sheet with panel title, participant names and a brief abstract of the panel topic in addition to the individual paper proposals.

Notification of acceptance to the conference will be made by October 1, 2015.

For updated information on the conference, location and arrangements, visit the Tropical Exposures page on the Cuban & Caribbean Studies website.

Area Studies & Outreach in the Social Studies Classroom

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Area Studies & Outreach in the Social Studies Classroom
November 10-11, 2015

A working meeting sponsored by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. This meeting will highlight important themes of outreach across area studies while producing valuable insight into best strategies for engaging with the K-12 Social Studies community. The meeting will explore best practices and strategies for assessment, resource access, and travel and collaboration.

Themes Addressed:

Evaluation and Assessment

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The meeting will take place before the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference in New Orleans, LA November 13-15, 2015. Participants are encouraged to attend the working meeting and stay for the conference afterwards.

This meeting is funded through a Title VI U.S. Department of Education grant, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, and Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Sponsors also include The University of Maine Canadian-American Center, The University of Texas at Austin Center for Middle Eastern Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for South Asia, and the Boston University Africa Studies Center.

Travel Funding Opportunity
Funding for travel may be provided to those whose presentations are accepted. Applications for funding can be made by filling out this form and returning it to LARC by email (crcrts@tulane.edu), fax (504.865.6719) or mail (Stone Center for Latin American Studies 100 Jones Hall New Orleans, LA 70118).

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

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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:
Tropical Exposures is now accepting proposals. Please see the Call for Papers page for more information. Proposals are due by September 15, 2015.