Choice rules: Red tape or red herring?

redtapecover (1)

Most private schools will participate in choice programs, even if they’re held accountable for students’ achievement, concludes a new Fordham study, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? Only 25 percent of schools listed state testing requirements as very or extremely important to their decision about whether to participate, but more than half worry about preserving their admissions criteria and religious practices. Fifty-eight percent of non-participating schools cited paperwork burdens and mandatory open-enrollment policies as important factors.

Fordham looked at 13 different school choice models and found very different regulatory burdens. Arizona’s “individual” tax credit scholarship is the least burdened by regulation, while Milwaukee’s long-running voucher program “has accumulated more rules as it has grown older and larger.”

Tax-credit programs will maximize participation by private schools, but “lose a measure of accountability,” researchers conclude.

A record 255,000 children are using vouchers and tax-credit scholarships to attend private school, according to The ABCs of School Choice by the Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice. “The ABCs” describes the 39 private school choice programs in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

Florida vouchers draw lowest achievers

Voucher schools don’t “cherry pick” the best students, writes Jon East on redefinED.  Students who use the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship are among the lowest performers at the low-performing public schools they leave behind, according to a new study (pdf) by Cassandra Hart, a UC-Davis education professor.

Compared to other low-income students at their public schools, voucher students are poorer and earn lower test scores. They’re more likely to be black. They’ve left schools with low scores and high rates of violence. In addition, voucher-using students tend to have few public school choices nearby, but a variety of accessible private schools.

Parents have to go to effort and some expense to qualify for a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, so these are the children of committed parents. However, that commitment hasn’t translated into academic success, Hart finds.