News Story

MSU Prof Studies School Choice, Says It Would Hurt; 146 Studies Say It Would Help

Government education establishment circles wagons against a new tuition tax credit ballot proposal

A Michigan State University professor who wrote a column attacking the statewide ballot initiative known as Let MI Kids Learn appears to have ignored numerous studies that would have rebutted his criticism.

Josh Cowen, a professor of education policy, wrote a March 21 op-ed published by Bridge Michigan titled, “I study school choice, and DeVos plan would hurt Michigan.”

The headline refers to a ballot initiative that would create a scholarship program for low-income students, who could use the funds for tuition a at private school, fees, extracurricular activities, books and computers, according to Ballotpedia.

School choice, including programs similar to those envisioned by the ballot initiative, has been studied for years by many institutions and organizations. Most have found it has, on balance, positive effects on student achievement, public finances and other measurements. A nonprofit called EdChoice tracked 169 education choice studies; 146 of them found that it had a positive effect, and just 11 studies found it had a negative one.

Cowen cited three studies that found a negative impact on student achievement, and one of those noted that the overwhelming number of studies on school choice reported a positive impact.

The National Bureau of Economic Research released a 2016 study on a school choice program in Louisiana and found negative effects. The report, however, mentions that it is a “striking empirical counterexample” to other studies, which report either no effect or a positive effect on student achievement.

Cowen didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.