As Florida lawmakers voted this year to strengthen a scholarship for low-income students, critics took repeated aim at issues of accountability, arguing the students don’t take standardized tests and the schools are “unaccountable” and “unregulated.” But a new national report, “Public Rules on Private Schools,” by Andrew Catt of the Friedman Foundation, demonstrates that such claims are exaggerated.
Friedman, a free-market education think tank, actually ranks the Florida tax credit scholarship as the most regulated state scholarship law in the nation. Participating private schools in Florida are required to administer standardized tests and, as far as accountability to the public goes, face twice as many reporting requirements as non-participating private schools. Friedman also ranked the Florida scholarship as third most regulated among all 23 state voucher and tax credit scholarship programs combined.
Catt analyzed private school regulations before and after the passage of 23 private school choice programs from around the nation. Each regulatory statute is weighted -3 to +3 and assigned to one of nine categories such as, “paperwork, reporting,” “testing, accountability,” and “curriculum, instruction.” Negative scores represented regulatory requirements/burdens while positive scores represented protections for schools such as funding parity or regulatory cost reimbursements. The further the score is from zero, the bigger the impact.
“Paperwork, reporting” turns out to have the largest impact on school choice program scores, owing to the sheer number of state statutes requiring private schools to report information to the state. This does not mean reporting regulations are a bigger burden than something like uniform testing and curriculum requirements.
States across the nation already imposed regulations on private schools, such as health and safety requirements, before passing school choice programs into law. The amount of pre-school choice regulations varies from state to state. Once a school choice program passes into law, most states impose additional new regulatory burdens for private schools that wish to participate.
The new school choice regulations varied considerably depending on the type of program. Private schools participating in voucher programs saw far more new regulations than private schools participating in tax credit scholarship programs. Private schools participating in Arizona’s education savings accounts saw the least. This mirrors the findings of Andrew Coulson’s 2010 Cato Institute report. Continue Reading →