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What You Should Know About School Choice

Are you skeptical of school choice programs? Do words like private schools, charter schools, vouchers, and tax credits make you uneasy? If so, Prof. Angela Dills argues that there are four things that you should know about school choice before dismissing it as a viable improvement to our education system:

  1. School choice doesn’t require parents to bear the full cost of educating their child.
  2. School choice lowers the cost of schooling.
  3. School choice raises the quality of schooling.
  4. Low income and minority students are more likely to benefit from school choice programs.
Dills argues that the American education system is failing our children. We have thrown money at the problem for years with little or no effect. School choice, when it has been tried, has lowered the cost of schooling while maintaining, or even improving, the quality of education.

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.

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