Research on Community-Sized Districts

The Public Choice of Educational Choice

To: Lawrence W. Kenny
Department of Economics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611-7140

Accepted: 1 March 2005

Abstract: The very small literature explaining (i) how citizens have voted in two California voucher referenda, (ii) how legislators have voted on voucher bills in the State of Florida and the US Congress, and (iii) the variation across states in charter school provisions is summarized. New empirical evidence documenting the cross-state variation in the success of voucher referenda and voucher bills is examined. Voucher bill characteristics and state characteristics play important roles. Voucher bills have been passed only in the more conservative Republican states, and almost all of the successful voucher programs have been targeted at large, struggling school districts.

There were several quotes in this article I found revealing (given in the order they were found in the article, emphasis added).

"Voucher bills have been passed only in the more conservative Republican states, and almost all of the successful voucher programs have been targetedat large, struggling school districts."

"Having more (school) districts (in a metropolitan area) produces a better matching of desired school quality with offered school quality and makes it easier for parents to judge whether some school districts are inefficient."

There is indeed evidence that the public schools are more efficient (i.e., test scores are higher, holding various inputs into learning constant) inmetropolitan areas where there are more school districts."

"Vouchers have been proposed to foster more competition between public and private schools."  "But surprisingly there has been little concern about the limited competition among school districts in states that restrict the formation of school districts."

"Public schools have been found to be less effective in areas with little competition among public school districts (Zanzig 1997) and in states that leave voters with little latitude to determine education spending or that meddle in local decisions (Husted and Kenny 2000)."

"Many very large school districts appear to be inefficient.  This may be because there is little effective competition facing districts covering large geographic areas or because there is less parental monitoring of large school districts due to low incentives to be politically active."

There is "more support for vouchers… in large inefficient schools,"

Most of the successful voucher proposals have targeted large failing school districts.  This strategy obviously is impossible if there are no large school districts in the state to target."

"All but one (Florida’s state-wide voucher) of the voucher plans that have been enacted have targeted vouchers at large urban school districts, where schools appear to be less efficient.  The availability of a large school district to target helps explain voucher success in Republican states."

"Additional analysis is needed to fully understand why proposals that target vouchers to large school districts have been so much more successful than other voucher proposals."

It has become very obvious to me that if all districts were community sized districts there would be no threat or need of vouchers in this state. - Rep. Cox