New study shows denies popular myth, shows private schools are not better than public
It has been taken as common knowledge that private schools offer a better education than public schools. This is a popular argument many school choice advocates wave to divert into private schools. However, a new study by the University of Virginia denies this popular myth.
The hiring of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos further spurred the national conversation on school choice and public education. Amid efforts to privatize public education, DeVos encouraged expansion of school vouchers to allocate public money for private education, calling public schools a “dead end.” 27 states have policies that allow public money to be utilized for private education via scholarship tax credits and education savings grants.
Researchers at the University of Virginia analyzed data from over 1,000 students. The advantages of private schools were non-existent when sociodemographics were factored in. For example, low-income children did not benefit more from private schools than from public schools.
The study was conducted by Robert Pianta, dean of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, and Arya Ansari, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Advanced Study for Teaching and Learning.
“You only need to control for family income and there’s no advantage,” Pianta said in an interview. “So when you first look, without controlling for anything, the kids who go to private schools are far and away outperforming the public school kids. And as soon as you control for family income and parents’ education level, that difference is eliminated completely.”
The advantages of private schools seem superior because of the sociodemographic of its students who tend to come from middle and upper-class backgrounds. However, those advantages do not confer to low-income students who transfer to private schools, implying the problem has always been a lack of resources in poor students’ communities. That problem is not fixed with school vouchers.