The National Education Policy Center in Boulder interviewed two scholars about the effects of mass privatization in Chile. This is a 30-minute podcast, perfect for drive-time listening. If that link doesn’t work, <a href="http://“>try this one.

William J. Mathis:
(802) 383-0058

Rick Mintrop:
(510) 642-5334
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BOULDER, CO – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education Gregory A. Smith speaks with Drs. Rick Mintrop and Miguel Órdenes of the University of California Berkeley about their NEPC policy brief analyzing the effects of school privatization and vouchers in Chile.
At a time when both vouchers and privatization have the support of the U.S. Department of Education, it’s important to consider what their expansion from a reform at the margins to an increasingly dominant position might mean for education in this country.
Mintrop and Órdenes describe the origins of their research project in Chile. Observing the school choice debate in the U.S., they noticed that people were using evidence from fairly peripheral results of voucher experiments. Because the evidence from U.S. voucher programs was not strong enough to show what would happen if a whole state or country were to implement vouchers, they examined the impacts of Chile’s country-wide voucher program as a way of understanding what might be expected if voucher programs in the U.S. were widely adopted. They created a systematic review of several studies of Chile’s voucher program, guided by questions about its effect on the middle class, on disadvantaged groups, on professionalization of teachers, and on the impact on the nation as a whole.
Looking at how school choice played out once it became universal in Chile, Mintrop and Órdenes found pernicious effects on public education. Using the selection mechanisms of school choice does not lead to higher quality of education, but instead forces middle-class families into a yearly competition. While public education used to serve about 80% of students in the 1980s, it has now shrunk to 20% in Chilean cities. Despite government attempts to shore up education, once the competitive dynamics were put in place, Mintrop and Órdenes describe what resulted as a “bottom rung that is associated with the public option.”
By looking at the deepening divisions across socioeconomic groups in Chile and its impact on public life, we can imagine what might happen if the U.S. were to take the route of universal privatization and vouchers.