An Economic Perspective on School Choice

Authored by: HENRY R.

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  April  2009
Online publication date:  May  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805862232
eBook ISBN: 9780203881781
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter addresses the distinctions between public and private goods and how education fits both of these classifications. This analysis of a “mixed” good provides a compelling basis for families to play both a private role in terms of school choice for their own offspring and also an important public role in setting an educational course that benefits the larger society. The chapter suggests that there are already many forms of school choice in the United States, but fewer opportunities for poor and minority families to choose schools for their children. This reality raises the question of how to envision and design school choice within the framework of a mixed good that will also embrace choice for the poor. The chapter asserts that beyond the policy focus on choice, three other criteria must be attended to: productive efficiency, equity, and social cohesion. It will show that the policy tools of finance, regulation, and support services can be enlisted to design an approach which attempts to balance—albeit with tensions and tradeoffs—the public and private outcomes.

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