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Voucher Regulation Reduces Quality of Private School Options

September 17, 2018 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Education reformers and academics calling for greater regulation of private school choice programs
have good intentions. They want all kids to get the best education
possible and they believe that they can achieve that goal by
preventing disadvantaged families from making bad choices. After
all, if parents are only allowed to make good choices,
shouldn’t their children get good educations?

If only it were that easy.

My just-released study — co-authored with
George Mason University graduate student Blake Hoarty —
suggests that higher-quality private schools are less likely to
participate in two of the most highly regulated voucher programs
in the country
, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the
Ohio Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

The data suggest that school choice regulations reduce the
quality of private schools participating in voucher programs, with
quality measured by tuition and customer reviews. Specifically, we
find that an increase in tuition of $1000 is associated with a 3 to
4 percent decrease in the likelihood of participation in a voucher
program. We also find that a one-point increase (out of five
points) in a school’s GreatSchools review score is associated
with around a 15 percent decrease in the chance that a school
participates in the Milwaukee voucher program.

But this isn’t the first study to find that voucher
regulations could inadvertently reduce the quality of options
available to families in need. A recent peer-reviewed evaluation I conducted with
colleagues at the University of Arkansas also finds that
higher-quality private schools are less likely to participate in
voucher programs in three other locations: Washington, D.C.,
Indiana, and Louisiana. And another recent peer-reviewed evaluation I
conducted with the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke finds
that voucher program regulation likely leads to less private school
specialization.

Why does regulation reduce the quality of private schools that
participate in voucher programs?

Individual private school leaders decide whether to participate
in voucher programs each year. The decision is made by comparing
expected benefits to expected costs. The primary benefit associated
with voucher program participation is, of course, the additional
voucher funding. The main cost of participation is additional red
tape. Private schools that participate in voucher programs have to comply with many regulations such as admitting
students on a random basis, requiring all teachers to have
bachelor’s degrees, and administering state standardized
tests. These types of regulations are costly to participating
schools for at least three reasons: (1) private schools must
allocate additional resources to comply with them, (2) private
school leaders lose autonomy, and (3) private schools may lose
revenue if families don’t like the way that regulations
change the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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