Should the District expect public school improvement in response to vouchers? Various factors specific to the District and its voucher legislation limit the improvement we might expect. First, the program would offer vouchers to no more than 2,000 of the District's more than 60,000 public school students. With such a low proportion of students able to walk out the door, public schools may face little pressure to improve to retain them. But the low proportion of students eligible to leave also means that little harm can be done. Second, Congress has a history of not holding the District's public schools financially accountable for losing students. If public schools are held financially harmless for losing students, vouchers might not provide them with an incentive to improve.
Despite these limitations, there are some reasons to expect public schools to improve. First, even if the District's public school system as a whole faced no loss of revenue, individual schools would still stand to lose the portion of funds allocated to them on a per pupil basis if they failed to serve their students and lost them to the voucher program. Second, schools can anticipate future developments. While the District's voucher program is currently capped at about 2,000 students and offers the public schools an additional pool of money, school officials can anticipate that the cap may be lifted and their financial immunity may be reversed if they continue to fail.
Our expectations for the impact of the voucher program on the District's public schools should be positive -- but modest. Given the experience with voucher programs elsewhere, we have reason to expect some improvement in the public schools, but factors specific to this program may well limit that improvement.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Jay Greene and Marcus A. Winters forecast what the effect of voucners will be on DC schools.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 8:22 AM