School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?

and Sy Doan

Do regulations and accountability requirements deter private schools from participating in choice programs? How important are such requirements compared to other factors, such as voucher amounts? Are certain types of regulations stronger deterrents than others? Do certain types of schools shy away from regulation more than others? All of this matters, because if private schools decide not to participate, private school choice programs become unworkable.

Chart 1

It turns out that private schools are not vehemently opposed to academic accountability (including state testing and reporting requirements), according to a new Fordham report out today.

Authored by David Stuit and Sy Doan of Basis Policy Research, School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? found that testing and reporting requirements ranked among the least important considerations for school leaders, with just 25 percent citing state assessment rules as very important when deciding whether or not to participate (and only 17 percent said the same about public reporting of testing results).

While 3 percent of non-participating schools cited governmental regulations as the most important reason to not participate in choice programs, government regulations are not judged equally. Among non-participating schools,

  • More than half (58 percent) cited obligatory paperwork and mandatory “open enrollment” as important factors in their decisions;
  • Nearly half (48 percent) cited upholding student-admissions criteria as “very” or “extremely” important to their decisions; and
  • Only 24 percent thought teaching to certain state curriculum standards was significant in their decisions.
Chart 2

The reasons most cited by school principals for participating in voucher programs were expanding their mission in the community (87 percent), helping voucher-eligible families already enrolled in their schools (75 percent), and aiding needy children in the community (72 percent). The study also notes that Catholic schools are the most likely type of private school to participate in choice programs, regardless of the regulatory environment.

Click here to download School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?

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