Puerto rico government

Empowerment of parents – no overstepping of regulations

The disruption of Kindergarten to Grade 12 education in the United States caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a wave of legislative and executive action favoring parent choice. Already, 2021 has been the most successful year in the history of the private school choice movement, with 21 states voting to create, expand or improve their school choice programs. But who holds these programs accountable?

According to a new Notre-Dame Faculty of Law report, parental empowerment – not overbreadth of regulation – should lead to the accountability of publicly funded school choice programs.

Accountability in the choice of private school», Published by the Manhattan Institute of Nicole Stelle Garnett, John P. Murphy Foundation Law Professor at the University of Notre Dame, points out the fine line between ensuring academic accountability and restricting the autonomy of private schools and recommends two guiding principles for liability regulations.

“Regulators should aim to give parents the information they need to make wise choices, thereby enabling them to hold schools accountable through enrollment decisions,” Garnett says in his report. And, “Responsibility regulations should advance the goal of providing parents with access to more and better schools. “

Most people would agree that when the government acquires a good or service with public funds, it has the right to ensure that it gets what it pays for. To some extent, it’s no different with choosing private school, according to Garnett.

“It is reasonable to ask private schools participating in private school choice programs to be transparent about the academic performance of their students,” she said. “However, it is not reasonable to subject them to government control or micromanagement. The very purpose of parental choice is to encourage educational pluralism and to give parents choices, so that parents can hold schools accountable. Excessive regulation defeats this objective.

While 21 states voted this year to create, expand, or improve school choice programs, three new programs have been added in states that previously did not have one: Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia.

According to Garnett, accountability regulations should aim to give this growing group of parents the information they need about school quality, but often do the opposite.

She writes: “A lot of accountability debates are not really about holding schools ‘accountable’. Rather, they represent the thinly veiled obstructionist efforts of opponents to kill choice proposals before they are passed and to bring private schools under government control when such efforts fail.

“For a variety of legitimate reasons,” Garnett says, “state and federal regulations do not require private schools to participate in state liability regimes or pass the same test as public schools. But, if it makes sense to give private schools the option of choosing a standardized test, they are not required to publicly disclose test results, and many choose not to. This makes it difficult for parents to make informed decisions. The quality of the school should be transparent, easy to interpret and reflect the criteria that matter to parents.

Regulatory burdens are one of the main reasons private schools are pulling out of choice programs, Garnett said, reducing the options available to parents and resulting in a less equitable and inclusive education system.

“Parents with means have long had the opportunity to choose their children’s schools, either by moving to districts with good public schools or by paying tuition fees in private schools,” she said. . “Justice demands that disadvantaged parents also have these options. “

Today, 31 states plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have at least one private school elective program. Liability issues inevitably and logically follow as the choice expands.

Garnett’s report focuses on academic accountability, but she also cautions against regulations that raise issues of religious freedom.

She writes: “Regulations that interfere with the autonomy of private schools – particularly those that threaten the religious freedom of denominational schools – are most likely to deter them from participating in choice programs, thereby compromising increasing access to education. more and better schools. “

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