And This Parent Went to Market: Education as Public Versus Private Good
L. ELAINE HALCHIN
Voucher and charter programs offer radical reform of American education, yet only two publicly funded voucher programs currently exist, and participation in each is restricted by means testing, limiting eligibility to low-income families. The Milwaukee program targets poor children in the inner city, and participation is further restricted by a cap on enrollment. Similarly, the Cleveland scholarship program gives preference to low-income families and is limited by the amount of money appropriated by the state legislature. These programmatic requirements restrict consumer participation by artificial means and hence limit the education markets in Milwaukee and Cleveland.
A much more inclusive form of school choice is found where charter schools exist side by side with traditional public schools. As found in Arizona, charter schools are not subject to limits on the type and number of customers they serve. Open to all and subject to an enrollment cap only to the extent that demand exceeds supply, charter schools offer school choice through an entire school district. The public schools do not retain a captive pool of students, as is the case in both Milwaukee and Cleveland. Whereas school voucher programs are unique for giving parents government funds to pay tuition at private schools, a system of charter schools is unique for opening up school choice to everyone--it is the most expansive form of school choice.
School choice strikes a chord with parents. On a practical, immediate level it puts into practice the belief that parents know what is best for