School choice is based on the simple premise that we’ll get better results if school budgets are distributed to parents so they can pick from schools that compete for their kids (and dollars).
This is why even the Washington Post has editorialized for choice-based reform.
A few years ago, I shared a bunch of data showing that school choice boosts academic results for kids.
As part of our recognition of National Education Week, let’s augment those results with some more-recent findings.
There’s new evidence, for instance, that Florida’s choice system is producing good results.
…new evidence from the Urban Institute, which…examined a larger data set of some 89,000 students. The researchers compared those who used school vouchers to public-school students with comparable math and reading scores, ethnicity, gender and disability status. …High school voucher students attend either two-year or four-year institutions at a rate of 64%, according to the report, compared to 54% for non-voucher students. For four-year colleges only, some 27% of voucher students attend compared to 19% for public-school peers. …About 12% of voucher students attended private universities, double the rate of non-voucher students. …Voucher students who entered the program in elementary or middle school were 11% more likely to get a bachelor’s degree, while students who entered in high school were 20% more likely. …High schoolers who stayed in the voucher program for at least three years “were about 5 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, a 50 percent increase.”A column published by the Foundation for Economic Education notes the positive outcomes in Wisconsin.
A study looking at 11 school choice programs found very positive results.
Even if choice is just limited to charter schools, there are positive outcomes, as seen from research on Michigan’s program.
Back in 2016, Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal shared some evidence about the benefits of choice.
Barack Obama…spent his entire presidency trying to shut down a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that gives poor black and brown children access to private schools and, according to the Education Department’s own evaluation, improves their chances of graduating by as much as 21 percentage points. …Democrats continue to throw ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer money at the problem in return for political support from the teachers unions that control public education. …Harvard professor Martin West describes some of the more recent school-choice research. Students at Boston charter high schools “are more likely to take and pass Advance Placement courses and to enroll in a four-year rather than a two-year college,” writes Mr. West. Attending a charter middle school in Harlem “sharply reduced the chances of teen pregnancy (for girls) and incarceration (for boys),” and “a Florida charter school increased students’ earnings as adults.” Mr. West concludes that “attending a school of choice, whether private or charter, is especially beneficial for minority students living in urban areas.”A study by the World Bank found big benefits from choice in Washington, D.C., with minorities being the biggest beneficiaries.
This map from the study is worth some careful attention.
It reveals that the rich and white families who live in northwestern D.C. don’t have any big need for choice. It’s the poor families (mostly black) elsewhere in the city who are anxious for alternatives.
(Which is why the NAACP’s decision to side with unions over black children is so reprehensible.)
The good news is that there’s ongoing movement to expand choice in some states.
The Wall Street Journal opined about significant progress in Florida.
With little fanfare this autumn, another 18,000 young Floridians joined the ranks of Americans who enjoy school choice. More than 100,000 students, all from families of modest means, already attend private schools using the state’s main tax-credit scholarship. But the wait list this spring ran to the thousands, so in May the state created a voucher program to clear the backlog. …This is a huge victory for school choice. The first cohort of voucher recipients is 71% black and Hispanic, according to state data. Eighty-seven percent have household incomes at or below 185% of the poverty line, or $47,638 for a family of four. The law gives priority to these students… Mr. DeSantis’s opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, said he would wind down the scholarships. CNN’s exit poll says 18% of black women voted for Mr. DeSantis… That’s decisive, since the Governor won by fewer than 40,000 ballots.The final passage is worth emphasis. Reformers can attract votes from minority families who are ill-served by the government’s education monopoly.
Parents in low-income communities aren’t stupid. Once they figure out that government schools are run for the benefit of unions rather than children, they will respond accordingly.
And here’s some positive news from Tennessee.
Governor Bill Lee fulfilled a campaign promise on Friday when he signed a school voucher bill into law. …its passage is a big victory for the Governor and even more for Tennessee children trapped in failing public schools. Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the measure will provide debit cards averaging $7,300 each year for low-income families to use for education-related expenses. The money can pay for private-school tuition, textbooks or a tutor, among other things. The program is capped at a disappointingly low 15,000 students. Participation is also restricted to only two of the state’s 95 counties—Shelby and Davidson… This is where the need is greatest, given that these two counties have the most failing public schools.To be sure, the union bosses are fighting back.
Over the years, we’ve seen setbacks in states where we hoped for progress, such as Colorado and Pennsylvania.
Let’s close with this very simple message…
…and this very persuasive video.
P.S. There’s also evidence that school choice is better for children’s mental health since it’s associated with lower suicide rates. That’s a nice fringe benefit, much like the data on school choice and jobs.
P.P.S. Getting rid of the Department of Education would be a good idea, but the battle for school choice is largely won and lost on the state and local level.