Vouchers have grown into an important and powerful tool that government can use to provide directed goods and services to specific groups. Voucher systems have become a highly effective tool that is not only used for food/nutritional and housing services, but secondary educational and child-care services, as well. Although voucher systems continue to remain a heated public and political debate, success stories, as the one mentioned in the case examined will only give rise to such systems in the provisioning of public education in years to come.
The Cleveland School Voucher Program case exposes several management issues that can unravel during the implementation of voucher systems, specifically in the realms of secondary education. Three noted management challenges risen in the case surrounded Ohio Department of Education ability to ensure competition among suppliers (recruitment of private schools), gain political/constituent climate (community support), and overcome information asymmetries (marketing of voucher program), all mentioned in by Salamon as management challenges that typically accompany voucher system operations. This case paper will first provide a synopsis of the pilot school voucher program implemented in Cleveland. It will then explore the three challenges that arose in the case. Lastly, the paper will assess how future school voucher systems can mitigate issues that were posed in Cleveland.
After several decades of economic downturn, Cleveland’s public education system was receiving national attention in all of the wrong ways, specifically for poor performance. Funding cuts had resulted in the cutback on all-day kindergarten, and only a meager 12 percent of all 9th graders were passing state required test (1999, 3). Attendance rates were also poor with approximately 20 percent of students being absent on any particular day. During this peak period of educational disparity only about one-third of students attending Cleveland’s public schools graduated on time. Many professionals in the education field expressed the fiscal crisis and the overall challenging nature of the district’s population as factors to blame for the failure and poor performance of students.
Majority of the students were from single-parent households with average incomes of $22,500. The overarching problems and dynamics of the district during most of the 80s and 90s created an unstable environment that eight school superintendents served over a 10-year period. In March of 1995, Cleveland’s school system was declared “in a state of crisis”, which was the state for many urban schools systems and ordered the state to takeover control (1999, 3). Presumably, this resulted in the perfect “policy window” and the consideration of experimentation to take part in a pilot educational voucher system (House Bill 117), which was intended to elicit competition and increase the efficiency and equity of Cleveland’s failing system. The Ohio Department of Education after...