Administrative Costs of Education Voucher Programs

September 2003

A number of states and localities are now considering creating voucher programs. A few localities have experience designing and implementing such programs, but most will encounter challenging issues.

This paper focuses on the administrative costs of voucher programs. It considers the tasks that public and private agencies must undertake, and estimates the administrative burdens and cash flows that local voucher programs create. It assumes that all voucher programs, including those meant in part to reduce overcrowding, will be voluntary, i.e. that no child can be assigned to attend a private school against its parents will. It also assumes that public agencies will continue to care about the educational experiences and growth of voucher students, and will therefore want both to administer voucher programs in ways that let private schools do their best for students and to ensure that student outcomes are evaluated.