NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Competition Shakes Up Public Schools

July 27, 2000

The school choice movement is still in its infancy. The public education establishment still controls 92 cents of every dollar spend on elementary and secondary education in America. But in a few areas -- Milwaukee, Cleveland and Pensacola, for example -- competition due to tax-funded school choice has prompted local public schools to improve. Take Pensacola, Florida:

  • A new Florida law allows children to transfer to a private school on a state-funded scholarship or to another public school if their school gets an "F" on a state report card two years in a row,
  • Last school year, 138 children left two Pensacola elementary schools that failed -- 53 going to private schools and 85 to better public schools.
  • Some 78 schools were graded "F" in 1998-1999; but facing the loss of students -- and state funding -- only four Florida schools received "F" grades in 1999-2000, and none of the 78 were among the four.
  • Throughout the state, all of the districts with "F" or "D" schools launched massive efforts to retrain teachers in reading methods such as phonemic awareness and phonics.

Districts responded to the threat of school choice competition by hiring more teachers, increasing math and reading instruction and reducing class sizes. The same kinds of improvements have been reported in other areas where public schools were affected by privately-funded vouchers.

Source: Pete du Pont (National Center for Policy Analysis), "School Choice Tide Turning?" Washington Times, July 27, 2000.


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