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Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK
Voucher system aids black pupils
Pupils
School vouchers were abandoned in the UK
Black pupils' test results have improved when they are placed in private schools, say US-based researchers who are testing new methods of funding education.

Researchers examining the implications of a "school voucher" system have tracked the performance of pupils who have been transferred from state to private schools - and have found that black pupils benefit more than white or Hispanic.

A voucher system would provide parents with state funds to pay for a private education - and in some states it has been suggested as a way of tackling the underachievement of black pupils.

In California, a ballot in November will decide whether every parent of a school-age child, regardless of income, will be given the right to a $4,000 voucher (for each child) which can be used to pay for private education.

Opinion among ethnic minority leaders has been divided over the proposal, with some rejecting it as a way of subsidising private education for the middle classes and others backing vouchers as a way of rescuing black pupils from failing inner-city schools.

Dividing opinion

The voucher proposal, known as Proposal 38, would put an estimated $7bn of public money every year into private schools in California - and is being strongly opposed by the state governor.

The research published by Harvard professor Paul Peterson considered three pilot projects and used tests to measure performance in mathematics and English.

While black pupils who transferred to private schools under a voucher scheme showed "significant" improvements, researchers reported that there were no similar changes in the results of white and Hispanic pupils.

The difference has been attributed to black pupils coming from lower-achieving state schools than their white and Hispanic counterparts.

In the UK, vouchers for parents to use in nursery schools were scrapped by the present government when it took office.

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See also:

27 Jul 00 | Education
Vote on biggest voucher plan
25 Aug 00 | Education
US tests show slow progress
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