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Vouchers, public school response, and the role of incentives: evidence from Florida

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  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

Abstract

In this paper, I analyze the behavior of public schools facing vouchers. The literature on the effects of voucher programs on public schools typically focuses on student and mean school scores. This paper tries to go inside the black box to investigate some of the ways in which schools facing the threat of vouchers in Florida behaved. Under a 1999 program, Florida schools earning an "F" grade for the first time were exposed to the threat of vouchers, but did not face vouchers unless and until they got a second "F" within the next three years. Exploiting the institutional details of this program, I analyze the incentives built into the system and investigate the behavior of the public schools facing these incentives. I find strong evidence that they did respond to incentives. Using highly disaggregated school-level data, a difference-in-differences estimation strategy as well as a regression discontinuity analysis, I find that the threatened schools tended to focus more on students below the minimum criteria cutoffs rather than equally on all; interestingly, however, this improvement did not come at the expense of higher performing students. Second, consistent with incentives, the schools focused on writing rather than reading and math. These results are robust to controlling for differential pre-program trends, changes in demographic compositions, mean reversion, and sorting and have important policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2007. "Vouchers, public school response, and the role of incentives: evidence from Florida," Staff Reports 306, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:306
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Educational vouchers ; Public schools;

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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