Working Paper No. 1

Do Vouchers and Tax Credits Increase Private School Regulation?

School voucher and education tax credit programs have proliferated in the United States over the past two decades. Advocates have argued that they will enable families to become active consumers in a free and competitive education marketplace, but some fear that these programs may in fact bring with them a heavy regulatory burden that could stifle market forces. Until now, there has been no systematic, empirical investigation of that concern. The present paper aims to shed light on the issue by quantifying the regulations imposed on private schools both within and outside school choice programs, and then analyzing them with descriptive statistics and regression analyses. The results are tested for robustness to alternative ways of quantifying private school regulation, and to alternative regression models, and the question of causality is addressed. The study concludes that vouchers, but not tax credits, impose a substantial and statistically significant additional regulatory burden on participating private schools.

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Andrew J. Coulson directs the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and is author of the Journal of School Choice study: “Comparing Public, Private, and Market Schools.”