NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice After Cleveland

July 17, 2002

In the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Court upheld the use of private school vouchers in religious schools. Since parents individually and independently make the choice of where to send their child, and since many choices are available, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is not violated.

Fortunately, now that the Constitutional question is out of the way, the debate can focus on the wisdom of vouchers as educational policy. Vouchers are good policy for three main reasons, proponents say.

  • First, they allow parents the freedom to choose what type of education is best for their child.
  • Second, they level the playing field for lower-income children, since previously only the wealthy could afford a better education for their children.
  • Finally, the competition from vouchers is actually good for public schools.

A Harvard study found that in public schools affected by competition from vouchers, both reading and math scores were statistically significantly higher than in similar public schools not affected by vouchers. [See Table]

Public schools also made other improvements, such as providing tutoring, expanding before- and after-school programs, developing more childhood education programs, requiring parent-teacher conferences, and closely monitoring teachers in failing schools.

Source: Matt Moore and Lauren Mutti, School Choice After Cleveland, NCPA Brief Analysis, July 17, 2002.

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