School Choice

SCHOOL CHOICE….Over at Crooked Timber, Harry Brighouse points out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, both Britain and the U.S. already have a system of school choice, but it’s “a school choice system riddled with inefficiencies and inequities.” So how could we do better? Harry passes along an idea from Julian Betts about a market-like system in which schools have a fixed pot of money to bid for students:

Betts suggests this: first fund the schools equally on a per-student basis. Then distribute trade-able rights to admit highly advantaged students; and allow schools to auction those rights. Schools would then be forced to figure out how much they valued the money they were spending relative to the highly advantaged children they wanted. We don?t know what the outcome would be. At one end of the spectrum you?d have schools with high concentrations of advantage and not much money; at the other end of the spectrum high concentrations of disadvantage and loads of money. It would probably take a few years for administrators to work out what the real costs of disadvantaged children were; but they would have a powerful incentive to work it out.

Schools would have the right to accept the students they wanted, but good schools would end up with very strong financial incentives to accept poor students and bad schools would end up with plenty of money to use to attract better students (as well as to buy more books and hire better teachers).

I’m not sure why I’m blogging about this since there are dozens of pretty serious problems with this proposal. But, like Harry, I was intrigued by the fact that someone has proposed a seemingly new idea. It would be sort of fascinating to give it a trial run somewhere.