Director of Education Reform
If you’ve ever heard Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis give a speech, you know she has a thing for Finland.
She points to it as a shining example of how an education system should work. She extols its collaborative teaching environments, its tenure system and its short, four-hour workday.
Now, school choice supporters have their own European model: Sweden.
A new study from the country shows that the introduction of vouchers led to better student outcomes in independent and traditional public schools. In fact, students across Sweden had higher test scores, better high school grades and increased university attendance after vouchers were introduced.
Sweden implemented their nationwide voucher program in 1992. Under Sweden’s voucher program, schools have to apply to and receive approval from the Swedish National Agency of Education to become a voucher school. If students go to a voucher school, their local governments provide the school with a grant equivalent to the average per-student funding in the public school system.
While voucher schools are allowed to deviate from the national curriculum, they must be open to all students. In addition, voucher schools are not allowed to select students by ability, socioeconomic characteristics or ethnicity. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on who can run schools.
This study isn’t the only one that has shown that vouchers, if implemented correctly, can improve student outcomes in both traditional and independent schools.
It is, however, one of the few that has looked at how a country outside the United States has gone about designing a voucher system that yields results.
Main voucher system study points:
- As the amount of independent school students increased, so too did student test scores, student grades and the number of students going to college.
- The voucher system decreased total education spending.