sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 
......The Friedman Foundation has just issued a report analyzing ease of access to school choice programs around the country.

Using School Choice: How Parents Access Educational Freedom collects, for the first time in one place, historical data on participation in school choice programs.

Greg Forster, author of the report:

"Where parents cannot exercise school choice without taking on burdens and coping with uncertainty, they are being denied real choice. We wanted to analyze just how much choice for parents these programs allow."

From the introduction:

"Another major difficulty in turning school choice into a reality for parents is the presence of court challenges. Uncertainty over a program's future is a barrier to participation, as real as any rule or regulation. Where there is a reasonable chance that a program might be cancelled on the whim of a judge, possibly even in the middle of the school year, parents likely will take into consideration the disruption that might cause their children and the problems they might have dealing with their local schools after being forced to return there."

The report found that in every state where a school choice program existed, participation continues to increase. An exception is Florida's voucher program, where schools receive a grade every year. Students attending schools that receive an 'F' are eligible to apply for a tax voucher to attend a private school.

Participation was initially high, as 6.5 percent of students opted out when the program started in 1999-2000. That number declined to 2.3 percent in 2005-2005. Several factors contributed to the decline, one of which is that no schools received an 'F' in 2000-01 or 2001-02.

But Forster also cites burdens placed on parents seeking to apply since that time. While the Web-based application system is, in theory, convenient (as are all Web-based procedures), does it not place a burden on families who might not have access to the Internet? The two-week window to apply for the program is also very narrow, considering the fact that parents do not know whether they are eligible until school grades are issued.

Then there's the court challenge to the system. In fairness, that may not play as great a role in depressing student participation because Florida law allows government program to remain in place after being struck down by lower courts if the state is appealing to a higher court. But years of legal wrangling can cause people to lose interest in almost anything.

Two questions: Why do special interest groups feel compelled to mount these ongoing legal challenges? What is so wrong with school choice?


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