In 2004 The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) launched a new initiative entitled "Doing School Choice Right," funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates, Annie E. Casey, and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations. The initiative's goal is to help state and local leaders handle practical issues whose resolution can determine whether school choice helps or harms children, especially low-income children in big cities.
The first activity was in August 2004, when CRPE and the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings co-sponsored a two-day seminar on communities and choice held in Washington, D.C. The meeting drew together parents, researchers, and community leaders to explore the practical challenges of implementing school choice programs. As a result of this discussion, the Doing School Choice Right initiative mounted four major lines of inquiry:
- Explore what it takes to inform parents (especially low-income parents who normally get very little information about schools) about the choices they have so they can match their child's needs with a school's offerings. Paul Teske, a political scientist at the University of Colorado, Denver, and a recognized national expert on parent information use, leads this study.
- Initiate case studies on how school districts can try to help traditional public schools cope with the challenges of choice and competition. Christine Campbell, Michael DeArmond, and Kacey Guin, all with CRPE, jointly lead this study.
- Examine issues involved in moving toward pupil-based funding, particularly technical, legal, and regulatory barriers. Marguerite Roza of CRPE, and the recognized national leader on studies of school district budgeting and spending, leads this study.
- Create models for how school districts can oversee public schools in multiple ways including direct operation, chartering, contracting, and licensing private schools to admit voucher students. Work to date on this study has been led by Kate Destler of CRPE, and Stephen Page of the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. Bryan Hassel of Public Impact, one of the few scholars ever to study public oversight of schools of choice, will lead a major fieldwork effort starting in spring 2006.
This paper gives an advance report on the results of these studies.