In 1988 the Thatcher conservative government opened up enrolments at government schools in England to students from outside the local area and funded schools on the basis of enrolment numbers. The goal was a state-regulated, state-funded ‘quasi-market’ in schooling. Instead of having comprehensive schools that offer an equivalent education to all students attending public schools, schools are now encouraged to specialise in order to provide choice in an education market, with individual schools seeking market niches to attract customers.
Various Australian states have also restructured schools to introduce competition between them. In Victoria, where ‘reforms’ were the most radical, schools were dezoned during the 1990s and their funding became dependent on enrolments. The conservative Kennett government sought “to reconstruct the public school system as a market of competing firms”.
By 2007 fifteen American states guaranteed children a choice of public schools. By 2000 one in four children were attending schools other than the closest one. However US politicians have been wary of opening up enrolments between districts because of the fear that voters in affluent neighbourhoods would object to paying high taxes for local schools if children from other neighbourhoods could attend them.
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