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NEPC’s December Education Interview of the Month Podcast Features Discussion of School Privatization in Chile

BOULDER, CO (December 18, 2018) – 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. 

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by Gregory A. Smith, will be released each month from September through May.  

Don’t worry if you miss a month.  All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here

Coming Next Month

In January, Greg’s guests will be Suzanne Eckes and Julie Mead, who will discuss how privatization may lead to increased discrimination in U.S. schools.

Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: