What You Should Know About School Choice
One reform that people advocate to improve
the quality of schooling in the U.S. is to increase school choice. There are private
schools, charter schools, or magnet schools. Your city may provide a lottery to provide
access to other local public schools. Your city or state may provide tax credits or vouchers
to help parents pay for the cost of private schooling.
Many people are concerned about what increased school choice might look like. Here are four
things you should know about school choice: First, school choice doesn’t require parents
to bear the full cost of educating their child. Currently, local, state, and federal governments
both fund and produce schooling. But we can separate these two activities: governments
can fund schooling without producing it. For example, they can fund charter schools run
by private organizations, or they can provide vouchers to help pay for private school.
Second, school choice lowers the cost of schooling. A lot of people think that more choice means
more expensive education. But U.S. and international evidence show that areas that have more choice
spend less money per pupil. Providing families with more options about where to send their
child to school lowers the cost of educating that child.
Third, school choice raises the quality of schooling. A lot of people are concerned that
with more choices, parents may not make good educational choices for their children. But
U.S. and international evidence show that areas that have more school choice have the
same or higher quality schooling. When families have more choices, parents report being more
satisfied and less concerned about their children’s safety. Schools that depend on parents enrolling
their children to continue to operate are more likely to provide the educational environment
that parents want. Fourth, low income and minority students are
more likely to benefit from school choice programs. Many charter schools and private
schools, particularly Catholic schools, serve low income and minority students, and these
students are more likely to benefit from choice programs presumably because their public school
options are worse. Florida Special Education Voucher program is a good example of how more
school choice can lower the cost of schooling while maintaining the quality of education
for some of our most vulnerable students. The U.S. school system is failing our children.
We have thrown money at the problem for years with little or no effect. School choice lowers
the cost of schooling while providing at least as good if not higher quality schooling by
providing options for children and their families.