Public Policy Forum Blog

Voucher schools compromised by legislature

The Forum's tenth annual census of private schools participating in the school choice program is released today. Our analysis finds that the results of the 2006 legislation lifting the enrollment cap in exchange for greater accountability are not as expected. Lifting the cap allowed enrollment to grow 16% in the first year, but that growth moderated to only 7% the following year. Meanwhile, the effect of the requirement that schools become accredited is moderated by the inclusion of several atypical organizations on the list of allowable accrediting agencies. Fifty-six schools, enrolling 42% of all voucher students, get their accreditation from agencies that were not in the accrediting business before the statute was passed and were affiliated with private schools prior to becoming accrediting bodies.

Other key findings include:

*Turnover among schools--10 schools joined the program and 11 schools left the program.

*Demand for private options by public school students--Of the 1,282 new voucher users, at least 44% appear to already be enrolled in private school.

*Teaching staff diversity compared to diversity of students--Of the 38 schools with 100% minority students, 28 have teaching staffs comprised of more than 75% minority teachers.

*Demand by grade level--In Kindergarten, there is one voucher user for every three MPS students, in high school there is less than one voucher user for every five MPS students.

*High school dropouts--On the aggregate, voucher users appear to stay enrolled in high school at a higher rate than MPS students.

Click here for a poster-sized directory of all private schools participating in the voucher program.

Anneliese Dickman