Program Overview:

  • The EdChoice program was enacted in 2005 and first implemented in the 2006-2007 school year. 
  • Students are eligible for the program if they attend a public school with a D or F rating for two of the past three years on the state’s key accountability measures.
  • To receive a voucher, parents and students must first apply for admission to a participating private school. Once the student has been accepted, the private school submits a voucher application on behalf of the student.
  • Ohio requires that EdChoice program participants in private schools take the state exam, which is the Ohio Achievement Assessment test.
  • By 2013-14, more than 18,000 students receive vouchers. 
  • The study compared two groups were compared: (1) students eligible for vouchers, but chose to remain in public school with (2) students who took a voucher and attended a private school.

Main Findings: 

Students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.

  • The study finds "unambiguously negative" effects for both reading and mathematics (though more negative for mathematics than for reading).  Such impacts also appear to persist over time, suggesting that the results are not driven simply by the setbacks that typically accompany any change of school.

  • The study found that "the negative results are present regardless of whether we look at the same students in a panel setting or different sets of students, and they do not appear to change much over time, indicating that the initial negative results are not due to the fact that EdChoice participants all were newcomers in a new private school.” 

Students using vouchers tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were eligible to participate in the program but remained in public schools.  

  • Although the students who participate in the program (the pupils who actually use a voucher to attend private schools) are primarily low-income and minority students, they are relatively less disadvantaged than other voucher-eligible students. Viewed in relation to Ohio’s public school population as a whole, students in EdChoice are highly disadvantaged—not surprising, given eligibility rules that require participants to have attended a low-achieving public school. But relative to students who are eligible for vouchers but choose not to use them, the participants in EdChoice are somewhat higher-achieving and somewhat less economically disadvantaged.

  • This finding may be, in part, an artifact of the program’s basic design: It allows private schools to retain control over admissions, and a child must gain admission into a private school before he or she can apply for a voucher. This multi-step process might be more easily navigated by relatively more advantaged families; their children might also be more likely to meet the private schools’ admissions requirements.