Issues in the Choice Debate

Published December 1, 1998

Policymakers are often placed in the position of having to choose between two opposing assertions with scant factual support for either. The first-year findings from the New York School Choice Scholarship Program help determine which assertions in the school choice debate now have research to back them up.

Supporters of school choice assert: Opponents of school choice assert:
Low-income families are just as capable as higher-income families of choosing the best school for their child and will make that choice based primarily on academics. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Low-income families choose schools more on the basis of location, religious affiliation, and sports programs than educational quality [PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]
Low-income, inner-city children learn more in private schools. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Any perceived learning gains in private schools are due to the more selected nature of private school families. PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]
The superior academic performance of private schools is due in large part to higher expectations for all students. Private schools select “the best and the brightest,” leaving behind the disadvantaged. [PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]
School choice reduces the amount of mobility from school to school both within the school year and from one year to the next. When choices are available, mismatches often occur and private schools expel problem students, adding to the instability of the education of children from low-income, inner-city families. [PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]
A more orderly educational climate in private schools enhances learning opportunities. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Private school rules, such as uniforms and dress codes, interfere with a child’s creativity.
Private schools use their limited resources more efficiently. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Public schools have a broader range of programs to serve needy populations. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH]
Families develop closer communications with schools they themselves choose. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Private schools naturally attract those parents who are more involved in the education of their children and their schools. [PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]
Choice fosters racial and ethnic integration. [PROVEN TRUE BY RESEARCH] Private schools balkanize the population into racially and ethnically homogenous educational environments. [PROVEN FALSE BY RESEARCH]