School Choice Keeps Spreading

Published February 14, 2024
school choice

The teachers’ unions and other naysayers are thankfully losing their grip on zip code-mandated education.

In just three years, the number of states with universal or near-universal private school choice programs has grown from zero to 10, and the number of students eligible for these programs has increased by 60%. According to the latest ABCs of School Choice – EdChoice’s comprehensive report about all matters pertaining to educational freedom – 32 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) are using school choice as of 2023. Additionally, policymakers in 40 states debated 111 educational choice bills last year alone. Overall, approximately 20 million students – or 36% of all kids – are now eligible for some kind of private choice program.

But what’s good for children and their families is problematic for the teachers’ unions and their fellow travelers. As such, on January 22 – not coincidentally the beginning of National School Choice Week – the Partnership for the Future of Learning released a toolkit maintaining that “voucher programs are “deeply rooted in segregation, racism, and discrimination.” The PFL, which is comprised of predominantly leftwing outfits – the National Education Association, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Learning Policy Institute, etc. – adds that private schools “do not have necessary accountability measures.”

The struggle to wrest power from the big government-teacher union complex by pulling the race card is anything but new, however. In 2017, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten proclaimed, “This privatization and disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.” (The incorrigible and widely maligned union boss most recently argued nonsensically that school choice “undermines democracy.”)

On race, the anti-choicers have it exactly backward. Almost 70 years after Brown vs. Board of Educationpublic schools are still segregated. As of 2021, approximately 60% of black and Hispanic public school students attended schools where 75% or more of children were students of color.

This segregation is easy to explain. Throughout most of the country, kids are forced to attend school according to their zip code, and since residential areas tend not to be integrated, schools remain segregated. But parental choice can change that.

At the same time, researcher Greg Forster reports that ten empirical studies have examined private school choice programs on segregation, and nine found that the programs reduced it, while one found no visible difference. Not one showed that choice leads to racial discrimination. Also, concerning race, a 2021 poll affirms that when given a fair description of school choice types, a great majority of minority parents are in favor of it.

Additionally, a 2023 poll by YouGov revealed that educational savings accounts are very popular with black parents. In fact, 70.3% of black parents are in favor of the program. By comparison, 59.1% of white parents and 50.8% of Hispanic parents support ESAs. Moreover, 78.9% of black teachers favor ESAs, while 56.2% of white teachers and 60.7% of Hispanic teachers are in support. (ESAs allow parents to receive a deposit of public funds into a government-authorized savings account with restricted, but multiple uses. Those funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, and other approved customized learning services and materials.)

Actually, parents of all colors are unhappy with zip code-mandated schooling. A January parent survey revealed that 72% of parents “considered new schools for their children last year – a 35% increase over 2022.” Also, 63% searched for a new school, and 44% were able to choose one.

Politically, school choice is popular across the board.