School Choice: The Personal and the Political
Forthcoming in the Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform
31 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2016 Last revised: 13 Sep 2016
Date Written: August 28, 2016
Enrollment in school choice programs is growing, so is overall support for school choice. Many have analyzed what demographic characteristics impact attitudes towards school choice. This paper adds to the literature by exploring the interaction between personal decisions regarding school choice and broader support for school choice programs. Focus groups were conducted in St. Louis and Kansas City with 35 parents of school age children. Participant responses indicate that school choice programs illicit mixed emotions from parents. Most participants personally support school choice and exercise choice themselves by sending their children to magnet, charter, or private schools. At the same time, they have reservations about broader school choice programs. As Schelling (1978) suggests, these individuals act in their own self-interest despite the impact it might have on the aggregate. More to the point, they are willing to express choice themselves, but deny it to others. This fits within Shuls and Wolf’s (2015) model of the “school choice dilemma,” which illustrates how individuals may be better off when they choose their child’s school.
Keywords: school choice, education policy, charter schools
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