Interesting new Fordham report on school vouchers and regulation (pdf). They gathered a group with varying views, including Eduwonk, and posed some questions. My take tended to be toward the regulatory side — overall I think that public regulations and public accountability should follow public dollars, which is one reason I’m skeptical of some voucher plans. But as the report shows there are interesting and thorny questions there and it’s not a simple issue. In the end the analysts at Fordham recommend a sliding scale with regulations proportionate to the amount of public funding. That’s one option to resolve some of the differences.
But here’s a more radical idea: Vouchers are tied up in a debate about money following children into non-public settings based on the theory that such funding benefits the child not the institution. That theory has been broadened through a string of court cases around Title I dollars, textbooks, and computers for low-income youngsters in private schools as well as the Supreme Court case upholding the constitutionality of vouchers. Today in fact, though you wouldn’t know it from the rhetoric around vouchers, a lot of public money goes into private schools through Title I, the federal special education “IDEA” law, and other federal and state programs. So much money actually that perhaps it’s time to jettison this idea of a child benefit theory and instead think about accountability from a school perspective and move toward deliniations and regulatory policies based on whether or not a school recieves public funding rather than increasingly blurry distinctions of public and private?