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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Social Equity Matters & Greener Houses Can Help: talk with Manuel Antonio Aguilar

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In this session, Manuel Antonio Aguilar, President of CASSA will discuss the background of social housing, the current technologies available, the variables needed for a holistic approach to green design for self-sufficient houses, CASSA’s experiences in developing intelligent social housing, the lessons learned through the process in Guatemala and the potential for this type of solutions worldwide.

CASSA is a Guatemalan company focused on self-sufficient social housing that provides their users with 3 vital services: Clean Water, Clean Energy and Sanitation. It is projected that by 2030 1.6 billion people will live in inadequate housing globally. However, there are solutions for this problem. In 2014 our generation finds itself in a "perfect storm" where different variables have collided, where technologies and knowledge are finally accessible everywhere, including developing countries. Efficient lighting, water filters, renewable energies, and waste management tools can easily be manufactured, transported and installed even in the most isolated communities, ushering in the era of intelligent social housing. Sustainable design can improve the quality of life through a dignified dwelling that provides its occupants with resources and services in a clean and renewable way.

Manuel Antonio Aguilar is a social entrepreneur from Guatemala focused on the Base of the Pyramid. He graduated from Harvard University in 2006 with Master's in Astrophysics and a Bachelor with Honors in Astrophysics and Physics. In 2010, he co-founded Quetsol, a solar energy Company focused on rural electrification, where he served as Director of Technology and Board Chairman. For his work, he has received awards and recognition in local and international press and has participated in high-level forums in several countries. Previously, he worked for three years in quantitative finance and co-founded a global macro hedge fund in the United States.

This event is co-sponsored by the Payson Center for International Development, CIPR, and Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at Tulane University.

Event flyer can be found here.

"Social Equity matters, & Greener Houses Can Help": A discussion with Manuel Antonio Aguilar

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Mexican Filmmaker discusses his film Penumbra

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans, in collaboration with the 25th Annual New Orleans Film Festival, present a conversation with Mexican film director Eduardo Villanueva. Villanueva is the director of Penumbra which will be screened at the film festival on October 19th at 3:45 PM and October 20th at 6 PM.

Penumbra Synopsis:

A rural Mexican couple-poor and decades past their prime-carry about their ritualistic, day-to-day lives, awaiting the inevitable, in this pensive film from Mexican director Eduardo Villanueva. The man, Adelelmo Jimenez, whose face tells stories that his words never do, goes on hunting trips into the woods, setting traps for wild animals and gathering medicinal plants. Meanwhile, his wife, Dolores, tends to their provincial home, washing dishes and preparing whatever meal she can make with what Adelelmo brings home, all the while mourning the death of her son, who was stabbed to death while trying to cross into the U.S.

Like the films of fellow Mexican auteur Carlos Regadas, Penumbra appreciates stillness and likes to linger-oftentimes at length-on beautiful imagery. Shot almost exclusively during the magic-hour, right before the sun settles into night (the title means “partially shadowed”), the film examines the quiet twilight of a one couple’s life and finds the beauty in that transitional period from life to death.

View a trailer here

2014 Tulane University Study Abroad Fair

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The Office of Study Abroad is hosting the annual Study Abroad Fair on Wednesday, October 22nd from 2:00-5:00PM in the LBC Qatar Ballroom. The Stone Center for Latin American Studies will be promoting its Summer in Latin America programs and its semester at CIAPA (Costa Rica) programs, and the Cuban & Caribbean Studies Institute will be promoting its Summer in Cuba program.

Over 100 opportunities in more than 20 countries will be on display from Tulane and non-Tulane institutions to study, intern, volunteer, and travel. Talk to past participants, professors, administrators, and program representatives.

Sponsored by:

The Office of Study Abroad
studyabroad.tulane.edu

Latino Film Series at the 2014 Annual New Orleans Film Festival

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The 25th Annual New Orleans Film Festival is proud to present its Latino Film Sidebar Series at the 2014 NOFF, presented by the New Orleans Film Society.

This year two feature length films and five short films by Latino filmmakers have been selected to premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival 2014.

For the complete festival schedule, film and event info plus online tickets, please visit the New Orleans Film Festival website.

The screening schedule for these films is as follows:

Of Kites and Borders
Follows four children living in Tijuana as they help their families to make ends meet, capturing what the U.S.-Mexico border looks like from the other side. The everyday routines and encounters collected here demonstrate how the border’s very existence — the possibility of crossing, the of America — shapes the lives of those who live alongside it, whether or not they ever leave Tijuana. Director: Yolanda Pividal. View a trailer here.
Saturday, October 18: 3:15pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 23: 12:00pm at Canal Place Cinema

Triples (Trillizos) – documentary short screens just prior to each screening of Of Kites and Borders
Lorenzo, Leonel, and Luis are gifted 16-year-old triplets who live with their family in a two-room informal house in Tijuana, Mexico. Through discipline and resolve, they find alternatives to the limited opportunities available in conditions of structural poverty. Director: Itzel Martinez del Canizo

Penumbra
A rural Mexican couple — poor and decades past their prime — carry about their ritualistic, day- to-day lives, awaiting the inevitable, in this pensive film. Penumbra appreciates stillness and likes to linger — oftentimes at length — on beautiful imagery. Shot almost exclusively during the magic hour, right before the sun settles into night, the film examines the quiet twilight of one couple’s life and finds the beauty in that transitional period from life to death. Director: Eduardo Villanueva. View a trailer.
Sunday, October 19: 3:45pm at Canal Place Cinema
Monday, October 20: 6:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Tuesday, October 21: 6:30pm at New Orleans Mexican Consulate (901 Convention Center Blvd. Suite #119 — 504.528.3722) — Special reception and talk with the Director of the film and the Mexican Consulate (Free and open to the public)

Mirza the Miraculous
This lo-fi, sci-fi tale of outer space, mystics and carnivals centers around a fraudulent shaman known as The Great Bazandini and his daughter, Mirza, who really does have special powers. Originally shot in 1999 along the Mexican border, this is a film 15 years in the making. Featuring Paul Soileau (Christeene) and an original score and sound effects by New Orleans’ own Quintron. Director: Brent Joseph
Sunday, October 19: 9:00pm at Prytania Theater (uptown)

Gloom (Perfidia)
A servant obsesses over the daughter of his recently deceased boss. Turns out the dead boss’ relationship with his daughter had an obsessive side as well. Director: David Figueroa Garcia
Saturday, October 18: 1:30pm at Canal Place Cinema
Tuesday, October 21: 2:00pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

The Great Adventure (La Gran Aventura)
A thesis film from Cuban documentary film students, this short profiles the loneliness of a radio soap script writer. As her life is projected onto the character she is creating and sharing with a listener, she connects two different worlds which seek, through fiction, to make sense of the daily adventure of life. Director: Cassandra Oliveira
Sunday, October 19: 4:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 23: 3:30pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

Tonita’s
A portrait of the last Puerto Rican social club in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC. The 30-year- old Caribbean sports club has witnessed the transformation of South Williamsburg from a Hispanic neighborhood ravaged by gang violence and drugs into one of the hippest and most luxurious places in New York City. Director: Beyza Boyacioglu, Sebastian Diaz
Sunday, October 19: 4:00pm at Canal Place Cinema
Thursday, October 21: 3:30pm at Canal Place Cinema (FREE)

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Tickets for all screenings may be purchased online and/or at any of each film’s theater box office, as well as in person at the NOFF HQ Box Office inside the main lobby/atrium of the Contemporary Arts Center located at 900 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130.

Connecting Day of the Dead Traditions Across the Americas: Haiti

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Learn about Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti in this teacher workshop. The teacher workshop will be followed by an optional class on Traditional Haitian Folkloric Dance. Monique Moss, adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at Tulane University, will lead a teacher workshop about Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti. Day of the Dead traditions in Haiti have their roots in Haitian Vodoo and hence show both similarities and differences to Day of the Dead traditions in other areas of Latin America. The workshop will focus on the performance of Day of the Dead as well as connect the tradition through to New Orleans.

Teacher Workshop
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Traditional Haitian Folkloric Dance Master Class
1:00-2:15 PM
Taught by Menahem Laurent

For a more detailed schedule, please visit the workshop website.

Registration Fee is $10 and includes lunch, teaching materials, and admission to afternoon Haitian dance class.