Policy Factsheet

Voucher Programs and School Choice

Reasons for Policy

  • Voucher programs can increase power for parents/guardians to choose schools, making the education system function more like a market, thus increasing efficiency.1
  • Voucher programs increase school choices for disadvantaged students stuck in failing schools.2

Community Groups

  • Local Government
  • Local Private/Charter Schools
  • School District

Policy Components

  • Publicly funded programs which provide vouchers to low- and moderate-income students to pay part or all of the tuition at their choice of public or private schools

Desired Outcomes

  • Improve academic achievement
  • Increase access to schools for low- and moderate-income students
  • Increase racial integration at private schools
  • Improve quality of both public and private school education

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 3: Insufficient Evidence Available.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

The data are insufficient to draw clear conclusions about the net effects of vouchers on academic achievement, access to schools, and racial integration.[2,4,5]


  1. Greene, JP, Peterson, PE, & Du, J (1999). Effectiveness of school choice: The Milwaukee Experiment. Education and Urban Society, 31(2), 190-213.  

  2. Lubienski, C, Weitzel, P, and Lubienski, ST (2009). Is there a “consensus” on school choice and achievement?: Advocacy research and the emerging political economy of knowledge production. Educational Policy, 23(1), 161-193.  

  3. Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

  4. Levin, HM (2001). Privatizing education: Can the marketplace deliver choice, efficiency, equity and social cohesion? Boulder and Oxford: Westview Press.  

  5. Belfield, C & Levin, HM (2005). Vouchers and public policy: When ideology trumps evidence. American Journal of Education, 111, 548-568.