Competition in Education: A 1999 Update of School Choice in Massachusetts
Author: Susan L. Aud George Mason University
White Paper No. 6 • September 1999
In March 1991 Massachusetts passed an interdistrict choice law that gave parents the option of enrolling their child in any district they selected, provided that district had voted to receive students under the program. The tuition for that child would be deducted from the sending district’s state aid and added to the receiving district’s state aid. In 1997, David Armor and Brett Peiser conducted a study to examine the social, racial, and financial impact of the interdistrict choice program on participating districts and, secondly, to determine if the thesis behind the market competition model of education was being borne out in Massachusetts. Specifically, the Armor/Peiser study analyzed choice data through 1995-96 to determine whether districts would respond to a loss of students and dollars by modifying their programs in an effort to regain market share. This study updates the work done by Armor and Peiser. The author gathered data for two additional years of the interdistrict choice program and similar data for the state’s charter school program as well. This update, for the most part, confirms the demographic findings of the initial study with regard to interdistrict choice. The racial impact on sending districts continues to be negligible. The impact on some of the receiving districts was to increase racial diversity; this positive effect continues and is increasing. Clearly, more minority students are taking advantage of the interdistrict choice program.