The Leaflet: School Choice Increases Student Safety and Improves Learning

Published March 15, 2018

Florida children will now have a greater ability to choose the school they attend, as well as increased scholarship opportunities, after Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed House Bill 7055 into law on Sunday. The Sunshine State is already a leader in the national school choice movement, but this new law bolsters the state’s drive for education freedom in two important ways.

First, it increases funding to the Gardiner Scholarship Program, an education savings account (ESA) program for special-needs students. Second, it establishes the Hope Scholarship Program—a unique voucher allowing victims of bullying, harassment, and violence in K–12 public schools to enroll in another public or private school.

In response to the law’s passage, Heartland Publications Director Sam Karnick said, “Government policies that force children to go to schools where bullies lie in wait or other unsafe conditions are tolerated does great emotional and academic harm to the most vulnerable children. No child should be required to attend a school where he or she feels unsafe. Every state should have a program like Florida’s, and in fact every state should make such relief universal for all children who suffer from feeling unsafe at school.”

In a recent article, Kevin Currie-Knight and Jason Bedrick of EdChoice outline how education choice initiatives help prevent school bullying and reduce dangerous school environments. It is estimated between 25 percent and 33 percent of students have been bullied at school. The epidemic of school bullying has coincided with a disturbing uptick in teen suicide rates.

In their article, Currie-Knight and Bedrick also include some of the heartbreaking letters they’ve received from parents desperately hoping for school choice options because their local public school has failed to protect their children from bullying.

The Florida school choice legislation comes at a time when the National Center for Education Statistics’ latest Condition of Education report shows that average scores in reading and mathematics have largely remained static since the 1970s. Only 36 percent of 4th grade students and 34 percent of 8th graders performed at or above the proficient level in reading. For math, the results are equally dismal. Just 40 percent of 4th students performed at or above proficiency and just 33 percent of 8th graders achieved the baseline proficient score.

State legislators should take note of the overall subpar performance of American children and work to create school choice programs that give those kids better opportunities.

Polling shows parents overwhelming support school choice programs. For instance, a recent American Federation for Children survey found nearly two-thirds of likely voters support school choice, including 41 percent who strongly support it. School choice is even stronger among Latinos and African-Americans.

An EdChoice report concluded the overwhelming empirical research on private education choice programs demonstrates they improve academic outcomes for private and public schools, save taxpayer money, and help improve classroom diversity.

As Policy Analyst Tim Benson concludes in his Research & Commentary, “The goal of public education in the United States today and in the years to come should be to allow all parents to choose which schools their children attend, require every school to compete for every student who walks through its doors, and make sure every child has the opportunity to attend a quality school.”


What We’re Working On

Energy & Environment
A Critique of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s 2017 Climate Science Special Report
This Heartland Institute Policy Study evaluates and rebuts the “Climate Science Special Report” (CSSR) released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) in November 2017. This 52-page response by Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr and 18 distinguished climate scientists and meteorologists provides a devastating critique of CSSR, which, according to the authors, suffers from many of the same shortcomings appearing in prior work produced by USGCRP. This Policy Study refutes CSSR’s assumption that “the science is settled” concerning global warming and exposes the report’s inherent biases. For instance, the authors posit the CSSR relies heavily on information from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has a long history of making failed predictions and creating deeply flawed reports. The report also uses hard data to prove extreme weather events, such as wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes, have not become more frequent or powerful in recent years, despite many claims to the contrary made by environmentalists and USGCRP scientists.

Public Schools Are Failing U.S. Students
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes about the first in a series of papers from the Center for Education Reform (CER). CER reports nearly half of all American students are growing up in low-income families without access to a quality education. Benson notes the paper provides a litany of data showing the mediocre job the traditional public school system has done in educating U.S. children, and Benson argues improving education in America is the most urgent public policy challenge facing lawmakers today, stating that the key to improving K–12 education is increasing school choice opportunities.

Budget & Tax
Steve Forbes’ Epic Rant
The Heartland Institute’s newly launched Flashes of Freedom video series features Steve Forbes, who argues capitalism is not only effective, it’s moral. In his presentation, Forbes, a former presidential candidate and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, dispels the popular sentiment that capitalism is evil and greedy, and instead argues that free-market capitalism, coupled with limited government, is the most moral economic system in history. “The truth is markets are moral … because they meet the needs and wants of other people,” Forbes said.

Health Care
How One State Is Trying to Make Health Insurance Affordable Again
Heartland Government Relations Coordinator Arianna Wilkerson, writing in Townhall, highlights some Iowa lawmakers’ efforts to relieve people in the state of their expensive, ever-rising health insurance premiums. Two bills currently advancing through Iowa’s legislature would facilitate the creation of association health plans and allow nonprofit agricultural organizations to offer health benefit plans, not insurance, to their members. Both bills would benefit consumers in the Hawkeye State by giving them more health care choices.

From Our Free-Market Friends
Want Money For Roads? Take It from This Failing Program
Michael LaFaive and Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy argue Michigan should abandon its Michigan Business Development Program (MBDP), which provides subsidies to businesses that have been cherry-picked by bureaucrats. Currently, the state’s budget allocates about $115 million into MBDP and related subsidy programs. Since Michigan lawmakers are clamoring for more dollars to fund infrastructure, ending the program would make $115 million available, which, according to LaFaive and Skorup, is being wasted. A review of MBDP finds that every $500,000 spent on business incentives is correlated with 600 fewer jobs in the county in which the project took place.


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