By Andrea Medici
In addition to spurring competition between school districts, school choice policies attempt to introduce competition within school districts by changing the competitive landscape of local education markets. The introduction of private and charter schools, as well as virtual learning programs, are all attempts to incentivize public schools to be more efficient and appear more attractive to students and families. The effects of competition on school efficiency show a steady upward trend in graduation rates and charter school performance in Florida, which can accredit to a more effective matching system and increased accountability between schools.
School choice shapes the market for education in a way in which it allows parents and students to choose between public, charter, and private schools within and between districts. This gives students and parents, characterized by different preferences, the option to discuss which school could be the best fit. School choice policies contribute to the matching process between students and public schools. Although this process could contribute to self-segregation due to similar school preferences across socio-economic groups, it attempts to foster student productivity by avoiding the distress and conflict a misfit would feel. An increase in student productivity can then lead to reduced operational costs and more efficient distribution of school resources.
As the competition within and between school districts persists, useful information, such as school inputs, graduation rates, test scores, etc., will be more readily available to parents for comparison purposes and will contribute to better-informed decisions. Accessibility of information will benefit active choosers for the most part. In a competitive environment, school choice could diminish the quality of individual schools by drawing away the motivated students, teacher, or funding. If motivated students are more active in choosing to attend choice schools, less motivated students would become clustered in less advantaged institutions. Because school choice policies aim to put students at the center of attention, schools are now incentivized to attract students from anywhere in the state, rather than selectively accepting students living in their district. Should the education market become more competitive the less-efficient schools will cease to exist as they would not be attractive to families. It is then in the school’s best interest to increase achievement standards and choose inputs according to parents’ preferences.
The introduction of school choice programs attempts to provide improved matches between students and schools by increasing the quality and quantity of information accessible to parents. Expanding the variety of school options available to parents causes schools to be more wary of their current student population’s needs. By making parents and students the ultimate deciding factor on education choice, students are allowed to better fit in at their respective schools. Although school choice policies may negatively impact less motivated students, all of these effects can contribute to a better allocation of resources and improved student productivity, impacting active choosers the most.