Cascade Policy Institute Research Finds School Choice Programs Can Boost Public School Performance

February 16, 2023


Cascade Policy Institute
4850 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Ste. 103
Portland, OR 97225

Media Contact:

Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
Office: (503) 242-0900

Portland, Ore. – A new report published by Cascade Policy Institute finds that school choice programs such as vouchers and education savings accounts can improve public school quality.

The report, “Decades of Research Finds Voucher Programs Are Associated with Improved Public School Quality” reviews more than 20 years of research evaluating the relationship between school choice programs and public school performance. These studies indicate that school choice programs are associated with small, but statistically significant, increases in public school quality.

Proponents of school choice programs argue that competition between public and private schools will drive public schools to improve in order to remain competitive and to attract and retain more students. Because public school funding is often tied to public school enrollment or attendance, it is claimed competition among public schools, private schools, and homeschool options provides an incentive for public schools to improve to maintain their funding.

Cascade’s research reports that most studies evaluate short-run effects—the first years—of voucher programs on public school performance. However, a few studies have examined the longer-term effects, which are more mixed. For example, some research suggests that despite large positive effects in the short run, these effects fade out over time. Even so, other studies find public schools facing higher competition from private schools prior to the introduction of a voucher program experience improved long-term performance after the voucher program is in place.

Eric Fruits, Cascade’s Vice President of Research, notes, “Improving public school performance is not a key objective of school choice programs. Nevertheless, empirical evidence shows that fears of diminished public school quality should not be considered as a serious risk associated with such programs.”

About Cascade Policy Institute: Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free-market public policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity. For more information, visit


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