Northern Neighbor Goes to Head of Class; Canadian Study Reveals Higher Test Scores from Low-Income Students with School Choice


From: Laura Swartley of The Friedman Foundation, 317-229-2128 e-mail:

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 15 -- A new study released today by the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation and the Fraser Institute concludes that the widespread Canadian practice of providing public funding to private, independent schools is linked to higher test scores, especially for low-income students.

According to the study -- which explored why the similar K-12 education systems in Canada and America produce very different results, especially for low-income students -- the Canadian experience with school choice provides compelling evidence on how "voucher-like programs" can work to improve the equity, socialization, quality and accountability of education in the United States.

In addition, the study, authored by William Robson and Claudia R. Hepburn and entitled Learning from Success: What Americans Can Learn from School Choice in Canada, found that:

-- International comparisons show that Canadian provinces that provide public funding to private schools tend to have both higher average achievement scores and better scores for less advantaged students, suggesting that such funding enhances quality. Basically, test scores are higher in areas where parents enjoy a wide variety of school choices;

-- In provinces that provide public funding for private schools, children from low-income families attend private schools in greater numbers and form a higher percentage of total private school enrollment than they do in provinces that do not fund private schools. Simply put, lower-income families take advantage of school choice and send their children to private schools more often when those schools are publicly funded;

-- Publicly subsidized private schools can be accountable to government and still maintain their independence and distinctiveness;

-- The recent Rand study on school choice, which concluded that all the evidence for vouchers comes from relatively small-scale programs, woefully neglected to consider the large-scale school choice programs that exist in Canada.


"This study goes a long way towards debunking the age-old theory that school choice does not help low-income children," said Friedman Foundation President Gordon St. Angelo. "Unfortunately, here in the U.S., we continue to allow the educational bureaucracy to deny low-income families school choice, and hence the opportunity to succeed in school and in life."

"This study shows that school choice is not some radical, new educational concept, but one that has been widely used for generations by America's closest neighbor," says Claudia R. Hepburn, co-author of the study and Director of Education Policy at the Fraser Institute. "Canadian provinces that have long provided public funding to independent schools have higher academic achievement, especially for low-income students, than those that do not."

"It seems as if the recent Rand study on vouchers simply forgot to mention the case for educational options to be made from the large-scale school choice programs in Canada," said Friedman Foundation Vice President Robert Enlow. "Thankfully, this woeful omission has been rectified in this study."

A Note on Education Funding in Canada

Public funding of school choice has a long history in many Canadian provinces. The province of Quebec has provided per-student grants to independent schools, worth up to 60 percent of public school grants, since 1968. British Columbia has funded independent private schools with per-student grants worth up to 50 percent of public school operating costs since 1977. Alberta also offers partial funding (35 percent) to independent schools, funds many Catholic schools and a handful of Protestant schools on the same basis as it does regular public schools, and also funds charter schools. Manitoba makes public funds available to qualifying independent schools, including religious schools. Saskatchewan provides funding to Catholic schools, as well as to some Protestant schools and a few independent schools. Ontario funds Catholic schools on the same basis as it does regular public schools and last year created a refundable tax credit, which, when fully implemented, will be worth 50 percent of tuition, up to C$3,500.

About The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation Dubbed "the nation's leading voucher advocates" by The Wall Street Journal, the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation was started by Nobel laureate Dr. Milton Friedman and Dr. Rose D. Friedman in 1996 as a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the role competition plays in achieving real K-12 education reform.

About the Fraser Institute Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy organization based in Vancouver, with offices in Calgary and Toronto.

Contacts and Resources Author: Claudia Hepburn, director of education policy, The Fraser Institute, 416-967-2923 or Author: William Robson, vice president and director of research, The C.D. Howe Institute, 416-865-1904 or w(underscore) Laura Swartley, communications coordinator, The Friedman Foundation, 317-229-2128 or

The text of the study can be viewed on-line at

This article comes from Science Blog. Copyright 2004