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Two Reports Take Deeper Look into School Choice

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The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, both pro-school choice organizations, have released new reports that delve into voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs throughout the U.S.

The Friedman Foundation report, "The ABCs of School Choice," offers a nationwide overview of the various private school choice programs in play in the states—vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, individual tax credits and deductions, and education savings accounts.

The report found that there are 18 voucher programs in 12 states and the District of Columbia serving about 104,000 students nationwide; 14 tax-credit scholarship programs in 11 states with 151,000 participants; one education savings account program in Arizona with 362 participants; and six individual tax credit and deduction programs in six states with 847,000 benefactors.

The report also provides detailed profiles of what types of school choice programs are available in each states, the amount of funding they receive, the eligibility requirements of each program, as well as feedback from the researchers at the Friedman Foundation about the quality of the program.

In the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's report, "School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring?," researchers David Struit and Sy Doan from Basis Policy Research explored the effect of government regulations on the participation of private schools in school choice programs such as vouchers and tax-credit scholarships.

In a survey of 241 private schools, 179 of which participate in voucher or tax-credit scholarship programs and 62 which do not, the researchers found that overall, there is a "moderate" negative correlation between the number of regulations tied to voucher programs and the participation of private schools, but that complying with regulations was not necessarily the biggest factor in a private school's choice to participate or not. The biggest reason cited for not participating in voucher programs was a lack of voucher-eligible families in the region, the survey found.

The survey looked at six voucher programs and seven tax-credit scholarship programs in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

When ranking which regulations were most burdensome, the biggest reason cited by more than half of the respondents was the ability to uphold student admissions criteria and allowing students to opt out of religious activities (which was only a regulation in Milwaukee's program). Required participation in state testing was listed as "very " or "extremely" important to only a quarter of respondents, making it the sixth-most cited reason for not participating, behind upholding student admissions criteria, allowing students to opt out of religious activities, the amount of paperwork required, the maximum dollar amount of the voucher, and adopting an open-enrollment policy for voucher participants.

Catholic schools were the most likely to participate in voucher or tax-credit scholarship programs regardless of the amount of regulations tied to such programs. Non-sectarian and small schools were more likely to avoid participation in highly regulated environments.

If you'd like more details on the report's findings, the Fordham Institute will be hosting a panel discussion about the report on February 11th from 4-5:30 p.m. Eastern time at their offices in Washington, which will be available through an online live-stream.

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