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Research

  • Nov 17 2016

The Private School Landscape

By Dick Carpenter, Rebecca Keith, Drew Catt

In The Private School Landscape, we test the longstanding theory that over time more school choice programs would create increased competition and more private school capacity in the states where they are in effect. Further, we wanted to know if more access to educational choice programs would increase private school enrollment. Finally, we wanted to find out whether, as critics often allege, school choice has caused increased racial segregation among private school populations. The Private School Landscape addresses these questions and makes recommendations for how states can spur additional growth, both in school enrollment and capacity.

Listen to our podcast here for a summary from co-author Drew Catt.

What Will I Learn? Download Report

Breaking Down "The Private School Landscape"


In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    In theory, school choice programs increase competition and spur the growth of private school supply in states with choice programs. In reality, they’ve yet to accomplish that outcome.

    The number of grade levels offered by private schools in choice and non-choice states changed very little over time, and the trends showed little or no divergence based on the introduction of choice. Thus, school capacity trends in private schools under conditions of choice look substantively the same as conditions without choice, both measured broadly or based on different types of choice programs.
  • 2

    Private school choice is not increasing racial segregation among private school student populations.

    Despite what critics often allege, private schools in choice states have not grown “whiter” over time. In fact, the average percentage of non-white students in private schools grew at a similar rate in choice states as in non-choice states. Moreover, the percentage of minority students enrolled in private schools as compared to the surrounding school-aged populations did not appear to change as a function of choice programs.
  • 3

    Private school choice has not significantly increased private school enrollment.

    The enrollment trends of private schools in states with private school choice programs either did not differ significantly or differed only trivially from schools operating without the presence of choice. This was the case whether school choice was measured broadly or based on different types of choice programs, including charter schools. The school choice programs we have implemented so far are not enough to spur dramatic change in student enrollment.
  • 4

    The reasons for the lack of growth have a lot to do with external circumstances and program design at the state level. We have work to do.

    These results and the likely reasons for them tell us that we must tackle the capacity issue, including overcoming the loss of many schools prior to the implementation of educational choice. Private school leaders are reluctant to open new schools or add grade levels without some certainty that enrollment won’t be limited and regulations won’t be overly burdensome. Policymakers should take these factors into account as they bring new school choice programs online.

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