NCSPE: Research Publications
The Social Cost of Open Enrollment as a School Choice Policy
Author: Cory Koedel, Julian R. Betts, Lorien A. Rice, & Andrew C. Zau
We evaluate the integrating and segregating effects of school choice in a large, urban school district. Our findings suggest that open enrollment, a school-choice program without explicit integrative objectives which does not provide busing, segregates students along three socioeconomic dimensions – race/ethnicity, student achievement and parental-education status. Using information on expenditures to promote integration at the district, we back out estimates of the social cost of open enrollment realized in terms of student segregation. Our estimates vary widely depending on several assumptions, but a social-cost estimate of roughly 10 million dollars per year is on the high end of our range of estimates for this single district. Although this number represents a sizeable portion of the district’s integrative-busing budget, it is a small fraction of the district’s total budget (≈1.4 billion dollars). Further, we note that this cost may be offset by benefits not related to integration.
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