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.
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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 the approval of House Bill 117 contacted Bert Holt to direct the pilot school voucher program and in August of 1996 the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program launched, which stirred much debate and turmoil over the appropriateness of the program in realm of secondary education. The initial plan was to have the first group of 1,500 inner-city