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School Choice Tradeoffs

School Choice Tradeoffs

R. Kenneth Godwin
Frank R. Kemerer
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  • Book Info
    School Choice Tradeoffs
    Book Description:

    Educational policy in a democracy goes beyond teaching literacy and numeracy. It also supports teaching moral reasoning, political tolerance, respect for diversity, and citizenship. Education policy should encourage liberty and equality of opportunity, hold educational institutions accountable, and be efficient. School Choice Tradeoffs examines the tradeoffs among these goals when government affords parents the means to select the schools their children attend.

    Godwin and Kemerer compare current policy that uses family residence to assign students to schools with alternative policies that range from expanding public choice options to school vouchers. They identify the benefits and costs of each policy approach through a review of past empirical literature, the presentation of new empirical work, and legal and philosophic analysis.

    The authors offer a balanced perspective that goes beyond rhetoric and ideology to offer policymakers and the public insight into the complex tradeoffs that are inherent in the design and implementation of school choice policies. While all policies create winners and losers, the key questions concern who these individuals are and how much they gain or lose. By placing school choice within a broader context, this book will stimulate reflective thought in all readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79862-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
  4. ONE School Choice Options and Issues: An Overview
    (pp. 1-17)

    WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION POLICY, Americans want it all. We demand better test score results for all students, greater equality of opportunity, respect for diversity, preparation for good citizenship, efficiency, regulatory accountability, the development of autonomy in students, and preparation for jobs in a postindustrial society. But it is impossible to maximize educational performance in all these areas at the same time. This book is about the tradeoffs involved in any school choice policy. All decisions make tradeoffs among desirable goals, and education policy is no exception. It cannot simultaneously maximize efficiency and equity, educational outcomes for the most-...

  5. TWO The Outcomes of School Choice Policies
    (pp. 18-64)

    IN WILLIAM STYRON’S powerful and poignant novel Sophie’s Choice, a concentration camp guard forces Sophie to choose which of her two children will have a chance to live and which one will not. Opponents of expanding school choice assert that increasing school choice creates a similar choice for our society. Increased choice raises the question “Which disadvantaged children will receive increased educational opportunities and which ones will have their few existing opportunities reduced?” This choice occurs, opponents argue, because any policy that encourages the relatively more advantaged children and more active parents to leave their neighborhood school reduces the opportunities...

  6. THREE Political Theory and School Choice
    (pp. 65-97)
    Richard Ruderman

    THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER dealt with such empirical questions as what is the current situation of low-income children in the inner cities, who chooses alternatives to attendance-zone schools, and what have been the outcomes of those choices. For these questions to have meaning for public policy we must place them in a normative context. We want to know what education develops the best human beings and what education is best for our society. But identifying the “best education” requires that we know the goals we want to pursue and that we assign a priority and a weight to each. The purpose...

  7. FOUR Parent Rights, School Choice, and Equality of Opportunity
    (pp. 98-133)
    Jennifer L. Kemerer

    IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER, education philosophy constituted the lens through which we viewed tradeoffs inherent in considering the claims of parents versus the state for controlling the education of children. In this chapter, constitutional law is our lens for looking at tradeoffs inherent in balancing parents’ right to control the education of their children against society’s interest in assuring that school choice programs pursue democratically chosen social goals in an environment that assures equality of opportunity.

    Following the logic of the classical liberalism espoused by John Locke and John Stuart Mill, the federal judiciary for the first third of the...

  8. FIVE Vouchers and Tax Benefits: Tradeoffs between Religious Freedom and Separation of Church and State
    (pp. 134-168)

    IN CHAPTER 3, we explored contrasting positions between theorists who view education as a matter for parental determination and theorists who consider education too important to the maintenance of a democracy to leave to parent idiosyncrasies and prejudices. We observed that the former argue that by inculcating a set of values some parents abhor, a state-controlled education system takes sides and, by so doing, runs counter to the diversity and individual autonomy that are at the core of liberal democracy. Thus, if the state is to be value-neutral, a publicly funded educational system should treat religious and nonreligious schools equally....

  9. SIX The Economics of Choice
    (pp. 169-193)

    EDUCATION IS THE single largest government expenditure of state and local governments. For this reason, any education policy proposal must answer the questions: How much will it cost? How will the state raise the funds? and, What will be the long-term effects on expenditures and revenues? In this chapter we answer these questions for alternative school choice policies. We divide the chapter into four sections. The first looks at two ideas that underlie much of the current economic literature concerning school choice: Tiebout sorting and the median voter theorem. The second examines current patterns of public school funding and how...

  10. SEVEN School Choice Regulation: Accountability versus Autonomy
    (pp. 194-226)

    SUPPOSE THAT THE STATE enacted a voucher program that enabled parents to receive tax money to send their children to a public or private school of their choice. Which of these accountability measures should the private schools be required to meet?

    They should be required to hire teachers who are certified by the state.

    They should be required to follow certain curriculum requirements about what courses to offer and what their content should be.

    They should be required to submit yearly financial statements and agree to public audits.

    They should be required to give their students standardized tests and publish...

  11. EIGHT The Politics of Choice and a Proposed School Choice Policy
    (pp. 227-250)

    AMERICAN POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS make expanding school choice to the private sector extremely difficult. James Madison designed the Constitution to prevent changes that might harm existing interests, and his vision of limited government remains in place. We can see this clearly at the national level. Such changes as the passage of Social Security legislation, extending civil rights to minorities, and the first Clean Air Act required the concurrence of three political conditions—extraordinary popular support over a long period, media focus on a particular crisis, and impressive political leadership. Even when these three conditions occur simultaneously, organized interests may defeat legislation...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 251-290)
  13. Selected References
    (pp. 291-302)
  14. Index
    (pp. 303-316)