NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Parental Demand for School Choice Will Drive Supply

May 6, 2015

School choice is an education reform premised on a simple proposition: give families more choices, and they will find schools that best fit their children's needs. School choice programs will succeed or fail based on how well they are able to create a marketplace and how deftly they can overcome issues on both the supply (schools) and demand (parents) sides of the school choice equation.

Improving the demand side means collecting and disseminating better information for parents.

  • Parents first want to know if a school is safe, then about academic performance, then about all of the other things that the school offers to help make their child a more well-rounded individual.
  • School report cards are useful, but parents greatly value the opinions of other parents. Finding ways to include the thoughts of parents, by allowing for star ratings, comment sections, or easy sharing via social media can help ensure information is put to use.
  • Parents need help advocating for programs that help their children. Many school choice programs are designed specifically to help low-income families, a demographic group that is often disenfranchised from the political process.

Improving the supply side means creating the con­ditions that help new schools open and good schools scale.

  • Schools need access to finan­cial and human capital. At current funding levels, voucher and tax credit scholarship programs do not provide enough money to finance new build­ings, substantial technology purchases, or any of the other upfront costs that come with starting or expanding a school.
  • New schools need new teachers and leaders. The skill set that will lead to suc­cess in a school participating in a school choice program is not necessarily the same skill set that would lead to success of a traditional public or private school.
  • Regulations for school choice pro­grams must be designed with the understanding that they are regulating a marketplace, not a monopoly.

Source: Michael Q. McShane, "Balancing the Equation: Supply and Demand in Tomorrow's School Choice Marketplaces," American Enterprise Institute, April 2015. 


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