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ERIC Number: ED508986
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jul-24
Pages: 22
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 28
School Governance and Information: Does Choice Lead to Better-Informed Parents?
Kisida, Brian; Wolf, Patrick J.
Education Working Paper Archive
Political theorists have long argued that the average citizen's lack of information and lack of clear policy preferences provide the rationale for public policy to be guided by experts and elites. Others counter that it is precisely the practice of deference to elites that perpetuates and even exacerbates the problem of apathetic and uninformed citizens. According to them, requiring citizens to take responsibility for political decisions and procedures motivates them to obtain the information and training necessary to become effective citizens. Here we look at school choice programs as an environment poised to provide insight into this debate. Theories of school choice suggest that parents need to and can make informed decisions that will tend to situate their students in appropriate schools. School choice, in a sense, brings elements of participatory democracy into the world of compulsory education, and thus brings the same potential benefits and problems that have long challenged democratic theorists. Increasing choices to parents may give them an incentive to raise their information levels about the schools their children attend. Akin to the information gathering of consumers in a marketplace, choice parents should have more reasons to gather more information about their schools than parents without options. Alternatively, a lack of any increase in information levels amongst school choosers would suggest that despite the increased incentives to gather information, having choices per se is not sufficient to overcome the costs of information gathering. To test whether the availability of school choice increases parent information about schools, we analyze data from the second year experimental evaluation of the Washington Scholarship Fund, a privately-funded partial-tuition voucher program. We find that presenting parents with choices does lead to higher levels of accurate school-based information on measures of important school characteristics. Specifically, parents in the school choice treatment group provided responses that more closely matched the school-reported data about school size and class size than did parents of control group members. Robustness Check Using Covariates in Ordered Logit is appended. (Contains 4 tables and 6 footnotes.)
Education Working Paper Archive. Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas, 201 Graduate Education Building, Fayetteville, AR 72701. Tel: 479-575-3172; Fax: 479-575-3196; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of Arkansas, Education Working Paper Archive
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia