Improving Opportunities with School Choice
January 27, 2015
School choice can take a number of forms, from Education Savings Accounts to tax credit scholarship programs to vouchers. Writing at The Hill, Economics21 Fellow Jared Meyer discusses why vouchers make sense for students and for states.
In short, a voucher program gives a certain amount of money to eligible public school students who can use those dollars to attend a better school, be it another public school, a charter school or a private school. Basically, educational funding follows each student. Vouchers work because they create incentives for schools to improve, as parents can take away dollars from schools that aren't delivering on their promises and send them to schools that are.
Do they work? Meyer looks to Louisiana, where students in failing schools today have access to vouchers. The high school graduation rate in New Orleans was just 54 percent in 2004 -- today, it is 78 percent. Moreover, by improving academic performance and graduation rates, school choice programs create economic benefits -- every dollar spent on Washington, D.C.'s Opportunity Scholarship Program yielded created $2.62 in benefits. And a new study from the Texas Public Policy Foundation has concluded that introducing private school choice in Texas would save taxpayers billions while cutting the dropout rate in half.
Just last week, NCPA CEO Allen West and Georgia Parent Teacher Organization Executive Director Rich Thompson offered their take on school choice in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They explained that the educational opportunities of too many children are limited based on their families' incomes: because children are assigned to schools based on their zip codes, only families who can afford to move or can afford private school tuition can send their children to better schools. "This system," they write, "reinforces a cycle of poverty as parents living in poor districts are left with no choice besides local public schools." School choice policies, on the other hand, offer all families better educational options, allowing parents to choose the schools that best suit their children's needs.
For more on school choice, see this short interview with NCPA Senior Fellow John Merrifield, who says the current system of assigning children to classrooms based on nothing more than their ages and addresses creates disinterest and disengagement.
Source: Jared Meyer, "To expand opportunity, expand school choice," The Hill, January 26, 2015; Allen West and Rich Thompson, "To improve education outcomes, advocates urge school choice for all students," Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 22, 2015.
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