Lessons from Chile: School Choice
The following is a paper published a year ago in the International Journal of Educational Development:
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Consistent with previous research, I find that public schools are more likely to serve disadvantaged (low socioeconomic status and indigenous) student populations than private voucher schools. I also find that disadvantaged students are less segregated in the public sector than in the private voucher sector. These results are not surprising given that public schools are mandated by law to accept all students who apply, regardless of ability to pay, while private schools are permitted to use parental interviews to select and expel students as they see fit. I also find evidence that these aggregate patterns may be masking some differences across private voucher school sectors. For-profit schools, surprisingly, are more likely to serve disadvantaged students than non-profit voucher schools. However, disadvantaged students in for-profit schools are more isolated from their more advantaged peers than in non-profit and public schools. This suggests that this sub-sector of schools is finding market niches in both low and middle-income communities.The author likewise pointed out an interesting finding regarding Catholic schools in Chile. It appears that Catholic schools enroll a very small fraction from disadvantaged homes, smaller than other private schools. Two reasons were offered by the author. One is that Catholic schools are now relying more on lay people for their teachers and staff. This translates to higher costs of operation. This, however, is true for other schools. A second reason is that the clients of these Catholic schools are indirectly demanding that the schools remain selective and enroll only children from privileged families. Responding to market incentives can alter the objectives of a voucher program. This perhaps is the underlying issue explaining why school choice does not deliver what it promises.
And for Catholic schools, it is refreshing to hear Pope Francis say the following:
"Men and women of the Church who are careerists, social climbers, who use the people, the Church, brothers and sisters - those they should serve - as a springboard for their own ambitions and personal interests do great damage to the Church."