Many proponents of private school choice take for granted that schools won’t participate in choice programs if government asks too much of private school participants, especially if it demands that they be publicly accountable for student achievement. If private school refusals to participate in choice programs were widespread, the choice programs could not serve many kids. But is this assumption justified?
We used two methods to answer this question in a report produced for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. First, we rated the “regulatory burden” faced by private schools in thirteen school choice programs to identify the relationship between regulation and participation. Then, we surveyed private school leaders in five cities with voucher programs about the importance of different program requirements to their school’s decisions regarding participation. Our findings make the case that although private school participation rates are generally higher for choice programs with less regulation, overall, government regulation is not the greatest deterrent to private school participation in voucher and tax credit scholarship programs. Instead, private school leaders pointed to a lack of voucher-eligible families in their area as the major reason for their school’s decision to not participate.