I’ve commented before that I don’t think enough voucher proponents have thought hard enough (or a least blogged about) what it would take to build an equitable, free(ish) market for public education.
As it happens, either have I.
So here’s a first attempt.
I’m not sure if it would work or not.
The state education regulatory body would set a per-pupil funding amount for each child. Additional weights would be set for student characteristics, with at-risk students receiving more funds.
This money would then be sent to families in a form of an educational voucher.
School could charge any amount up to the full voucher amount. They could charge non-voucher students more than the voucher amount.
Any entity that functions as an educational provider would submit enrollment targets to the state by December 1st.
Enrollment targets would be required to be uniform across grades; i.e., you couldn’t offer hundred kindergarten slots but only fifty fourth grades slots. This would prevent schools from using selective attrition to weed out tough to serve kids. Moreover, it would force each school to equally share the burden of midyear enrollees.
Enrollment season would be from February to April, and any child could apply to any school in the state. Schools would have to educate any child that was assigned to their school via the enrollment system.
Schools could apply to the state to allow for selective admission criteria (academics, arts, etc.), and it would be up to the state to determine the appropriate number of selective schools (I wouldn’t want it over ~10% or so).
At the end of the enrollment period, if there were not enough seats for all students, schools would be required to take additional students on a proportional basis.
Expulsion would be handled by the courts. If a school wished to deprive a child of a public education, the school would have to make this case in court. States could pass laws outlining what offenses are expulsion worthy.
Schools would be required to provide free transportation to any student within a four-mile radius.
Information and Accountability
The state would create a list of allowable tests. These tests would be culled from widely used standards based and national normed assessments. Schools could utilize any of these tests and would give their selected test on an annual basis to all voucher students.
The state would publish the results of tests, and, as much as possible, compare an individual school’s growth results with other schools that serve similar populations.
Because schools would use different tests, there would be no unified letter grade system.
In extreme cases, the state could label a school failing and put a warning next to it on the unified enrollment form, but schools would only be closed for illegal behavior, not poor performance.
All public facilities would be transferred to a public trust. This trust would then sell or lease properties to educational providers. The trust would be given a mandate to sell all of its assets to the private sector over a predetermined time period.
Non-School House Education Options
Tutoring, mentoring, specialized courses, etc. could all be purchased with a portion of a family’s voucher.
These entities would be subject to aforementioned enrollment and accountability provisions.
The state would work with each provider to determine an appropriate assessment plan. The results of these assessments would be made public.
There would be no authorization plan outside of the school operator and the state agreeing on an assessment plan for the provider.
For the most part, if you wanted to open a school, and parents were willing to send their child there, you could do so.
Government authorization and accountability would, for the most part, go away.
Government’s primary function would be to monitor equity issues (enrollment, expulsion, etc.).
Everything else would be left to families and schools.
What do you think would happen if a state adopted this model?
I’ll try to answer this question in subsequent posts.
Also, I might revise some of the above. I haven’t thought very deeply about some of these issues, and I’m sure I’ve gotten a lot wrong.