The Alum Rock Voucher Demonstration: Three Years of Implementation

by E. Levinson

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Abstract

The Alum Rock demonstration was a first attempt to install vouchers within a public school system. The intent of a voucher system is to allow parent choice rather than bureaucratic decisions to determine the allocation of educational resources. In actual operation however, the Alum Rock School District, San Jose, California, was changed into a decentralized, open enrollment system, in which the supply of educational options was largely determined by the educational bureaucracy. This study concludes: (1) It was probably impossible to implement a pure voucher system. (2) The Alum Rock experiment has been useful in evaluating the feasibility of voucher systems. (3) The decentralization necessary for the operation of a voucher system was not congruent with the centralizing constraints of the school district's operation. Such constraints include the education code, fiscal liability, and teacher contracts. (4) The incremental implementation of the voucher system allowed for modification of the innovation and prevented its implementation as originally planned.

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