The effects of a free school choice policy on parents' school choice behaviour
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Recently, European school systems have seen various attempts to ?modernise? their governance. Market
and competition oriented reforms have not been central to governance innovation strategies in German
speaking countries, however, their number and relevance is rising in recent years. A free school choice
policy which abolishes ??school districts?? which legally define fixed school catchment areas was
introduced in the school year of 2007/2008 in the Austrian city of Linz.
The effects of the implementation of this policy on the primary school sector were studied by a
standardised questionnaire administered to a representative sample of 3425 parents of five age groups of
primary school children. The return rate was about 55%. By special measures during data collection a
satisfactory representation of parents with migrant background was achieved.
Three questions are discussed in the paper: (1) Is there a rise in segregation in schools as a result of free
choice policy? (2) Is there a change in the composition of the student population in different schools as a
result of free choice policy? (3) Is there a change in parent school choice behaviour of as a result of free
Our data indicates that segregation in primary schools with respect to ethnic and social family
characteristics increases after the policy implementation, but the sample size is too small to find
significant results. In addition, no significant change is observed in the social composition of schools. In
accordance with the previous findings no significant modifications of choice behaviour occur for different
ethnic or social groups after free choice. However changes in choice motives can be observed.