Some Regulations Deter Private Schools from Participating in Voucher Programs

Corey DeAngelis:

Regulations of school voucher programs can be well-intended. Policymakers may hope to prevent “bad” schools from operating or may limit schools’ ability to be selective in their admissions procedures in the name of establishing equal access to private options. But do top-down regulations of school voucher programs come with any unintended consequences? Our just-released study suggests some do.

We used surveys to randomly assign different regulations commonly found in school choice programs to 4,825 private school leaders in the states of California and New York and asked them whether or not they would participate in a new private school choice program during the following school year. Here’s what we found.

Relative to no additional regulations, open-enrollment mandates – preventing private schools from having specific admissions policies – reduced the likelihood that private school leaders were certain to participate in a hypothetical choice program by 60 percent. State standardized testing requirements reduced the likelihood that private school leaders were certain to participate by 29 percent. However, we found no evidence to suggest that mandating private schools to accept the voucher as full payment or requiring them to administer a nationally norm-referenced test of their own choosing affected the willingness of private school leaders to participate.

These overall results largely mirror what we found in our previous experiment in Florida. Statistically significant overall effects can be found in the figures below.