New Study Explores How New Orleans Families Choose Between Public and Private Schools

Jan 5, 2016

When low-income students apply to school in New Orleans, they have three options: a handful of traditional public schools, mostly charter public schools, and private schools with voucher programs. How do these students and their families choose an option? A new study from Tulane's Education Research Alliance explores this question.

When given the choice, do families want to leave the public school system no matter what, or will they consider public schools? There's a reason this study takes place in New Orleans.

Jane Arnold Lincove is a co-author of the study. "It's only in New Orleans that we have data where we can observe a ranked order of parent preferences for public schools, charter schools and private voucher schools all together on one application," she says.

Lincove and fellow researchers looked at OneApp applications from 2013. They found half of private voucher school applicants also applied to public schools. About a third listed a public school as their top choice. Lincove says the study is an important step in assessing school voucher programs.

"The theory of vouchers as a strategy to improve the school system overall is that public schools will experience competition from private schools," she says. "And hopefully what they do to be more competitive is improve the academic quality of their school. But we don't have a lot of evidence that this even happens in voucher programs, that there are parents who might exit for private school but would be willing to use a public school if it offered the right type of program for their kid. So it's kind of promising for the idea that public schools actually compete with private schools when you have a voucher system."

The Education Research Alliance plans to release several more studies on the connection between public and private schools.