Talking Points (School Choice)
by Focus on the Family Issue Analysts
School choice programs put power back into the hands of parents, where it belongs.
Parents are best equipped to decide what type of education their children receive, not impersonal bureaucratic agencies. They, rather than government entities, are most deeply and immediately concerned about the well-being of their children.
School choice programs are essential for safeguarding parents' constitutional freedoms to direct the upbringing of their children, especially at a time when more and more public schools are choosing to promote homosexuality, advocate sexual promiscuity and present one-sided views of Darwinism.
School choice also protects parents' religious freedoms by allowing them to select education options that concur with the principles and values they are teaching their children.
Parents should have the power to make education decisions based on key factors, such as the abilities and temperament of a child, the quality of local schools, and the family's financial situation.
School choice levels the socio-economic playing field by giving low-income families the same educational opportunities that high-income families have.
School choice increases parental satisfaction and involvement – key factors in improving and maintaining children's academic performance.
For instance, a federally mandated evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, released in 2009, found that the parents of students who were ofered scholarships were more likely to be satisfied with their children's school. The students who used the scholarships were also nearly four months ahead of their public school peers in reading. A final study of the program found that students who used an OSP scholarship had graduation rates 21 points higher than their public school peers.
The Manhattan Institute found that 90 percent of parents participating in a Florida school-choice program for special-needs students were satisfied or very satisfied with their children's schools, while only about a third of them were satisfied with their previous public school.
School choice initiatives strengthen schools and improve the quality of education by increasing competition.
John D. Merrifield, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who studied a 10-year endowment-funded program that provided scholarships— regardless of family income —to children in the low-performing Edgewood (Texas) School District. The children used the vouchers to attend private, religious or public schools of their choice. He and other researchers found an approximately 17 percentage-point increase in Edgewood’s public school graduation rates that could be attributable to the voucher program. Such improvements appeared to be a response to increased competition, according to Merrifield’s report.
Bottom line: Competition helps everyone. Students "benefit from having a choice in the school they attend," concluded Merrifield, "even if they remain in public schools."
A Heritage Foundation
, reported that, "In February 2009, education researcher Greg Forster conducted a review of every available empirical study concerning the effect vouchers have on academic achievement in public schools. Forster found that vouchers have a positive impact on public schools, and that 'no empirical study has ever found that vouchers had a negative impact on public schools.' He determined that the positive benefit to public schools is due to the fact that "competition from vouchers introduces healthy incentives for public schools to improve."
School choice empowers minority families and helps to narrow the achievement gap.
Some of the students most affected by failing schools are African-American and Hispanic students. We hear a lot today about creating educational equity and closing the achievement gap for minorities. The best way to do that would be to empower their parents to make the best choices for their own children
Minority communities are increasingly supporting school choice, discrediting opponents' claims that school choice leads to inequality and segregation.
Research shows that school-choice scholarship programs in four cities specifically improved education outcomes for African American students.
School choice improves diversity.
The private schools that school choice participants attended in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., were more racially integrated than the public schools the students would have attended otherwise.
"According to a national sample of public and private 12
graders collected by the U.S. Department of Education, public school classrooms are more apt to be almost entirely white or almost entirely minority. More than half of all public school 12
graders (55 percent) are in classes that have more than 90 percent or fewer than 10 percent minority students. In private schools, just 41 percent of students are in similarly segregated classrooms. And private student schools are markedly more likely to be in classes that come close to resembling the nation's demographics."
School choice does not undermine the public school system economically or rob resources from it.
The cost of a scholarship for a participant in a school choice program is less than what would have been spent on that student if the individual had remained in public schools. "While the average public school spends about $10,000 per student, the average private school charges about $6,000 in tuition. That difference is the fundamental reason school choice policies will save money," explains
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.
For example, "A student at a choice school costs taxpayers, max, about $6,500. No public school district in the state has a comparative cost figure approaching that ... and certainly not the Milwaukee Public Schools, which spend about $12,000 per child on instruction. This is why every time a child attends a choice school, it saves taxpayers money," explained a columnist for the
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
In fact, school choice policies have a positive fiscal impact on districts that implement them.
From 1990 through 2006, school choice programs saved $22 million in state budgets and $422 million in local public school districts.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the core principles of school choice initiatives.
In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Pierce
v. Society of Sisters,
upheld parents' constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children, including the right to send their kids to a religious school.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a school choice scholarship program in Cleveland, Ohio, that allowed parents to choose to send their kids to a private, religious school. In
Zelman v. Simmons-Harris,
the Court ruled that as long as students and their parents had the freedom to choose between secular and religious private schooling, the program did not violate the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause. Parents, not the state, were in control of how the scholarship was used and which school to apply it toward. According to the Court, parental control constituted "true private choice."
In April 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court also threw out an ACLU-backed lawsuit that had attempted to dismantle an important Arizona tax-credit, school choice program. Read more about that
Copyright © 2011, 2008 Focus on the Family.
"The Next Civil Rights Battle."
Citizen Magazine. August/September 2010. The Heritage Foundation:
Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., "Vouchers for Special Education Students-Part 2," Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, April 30, 2008:
The Next Civil Rights Battle, Citizen Magazine, August/September 2010:
Diana Jean Schemo, "Program on Vouchers Draws Minority Support,
The New York Times,
6 April 2006. Also, "School Choice a Key Issue for Latino Voters in 08,"
"The Next Civil Rights Battle"
. Citizen Magazine. August/September 2010.
Survey of School Choice Research
, Spring 2005, Alliance for School Choice.
Dan Lips, "School Choice and Racial Integration Go Hand in Hand," Education Notebook, The Heritage Foundation, 10 October 2006.
Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., "Why School Choice Can Promote Integration,"
, 12 April 2000.
Dan Lips, "School Choice: Policy Developments and National Participation Estimates in 2007–2008," The Heritage Foundation, 31 Jan. 2008.
Susan L. Aud, "School Choice by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006," Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, April 2007.