The Friedman Foundation on Filling Private School Seats - EdChoice
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  • Jan 30 2014

The Friedman Foundation on Filling Private School Seats

(Posted in response to a guest post by Anna J. Egalite entitled “How to Maximize Private School Supply in Choice Programs.”)

Among America’s private school choice programs, the Louisiana Scholarship Program has some of, if not the, most restrictive application processes for voucher students and voucher-accepting private schools. Its administrators determine 1) which private schools can participate, 2) uniquely, how many voucher students schools can accept, and 3) how schools must enroll students (randomly).

In that educational “vehicle,” Alvin E. Roth’s school-placement process puts Louisiana voucher parents in the passenger’s seat: They rank their top five school choice destinations. But ultimately, government is in the driver’s seat determining how to fill private school seats.

The purpose of school choice is to encourage an outgrowth of new schools and more innovative educational models, based on parent demand.

It’s important to remember that school choice is not about moving students from one system (public) to another (private), particularly when it’s done with the sole intention of raising student performance on state tests. The purpose of school choice is to encourage an outgrowth of new schools and more innovative educational models, based on parent demand.

For that to happen, government should fill the tank—by allowing existing student funding to be portable—and let parents drive. And, in fairness, private schools need to step up and make their school stats easy to find for interested parents. Working with GreatSchools.org to get their schools’ information updated online is a first step. North Carolina offers a promising example for how this can work.

Ultimately, if private schools are unwilling to make data public and promote their open seats, perhaps they aren’t best suited to serve voucher children. The days of any school kicking back and waiting for government to feed it students are out, and the days of all schools working to attract families and meet their needs are in.

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