The Leaflet: School Choice Programs Continue to Prove Successful

Published August 3, 2017

The amount of students choosing charter schools, homeschools, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, or education savings accounts (ESAs) has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Under these programs, parents are given a choice in their child’s education instead of being assigned to a public school based on a ZIP code. As more states have adopted these reforms, a greater amount of reliable research has been conducted on the impact choice programs are having on education outcomes, integration, and costs.

Support for school choice remains strong for parents, especially those of minority students. A national survey of likely 2018 voters show Latinos and African-Americans continue to back all school choice options, with overwhelming majorities. Wisconsin State Sen. Polly Williams, an African-American Democrat, championed the nation’s first private school voucher program, which was launched in 1990 in Milwaukee. She understood that disadvantaged families desire a quality education for their children just as much as wealthy families do, but without school choice programs, kids end up trapped in failing, poorly run public schools.

In a recent Research & Commentary, Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson wrote about a new study in which researchers evaluated the effects of vouchers on student achievement after three years in Louisiana. This study, conducted by University Arkansas researchers with the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), is the latest in a series of studies concerning the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a statewide school voucher program exclusively for low-income students, who are chosen via a random lottery. The study found the longer students participated in the LSP, the better they perform.

“Other studies of LSP by SCDP have shown the program is saving Louisiana money, reducing segregation in Pelican State public schools, and, via competition, improving outcomes for students who remain in the public schools, especially those schools that are most aggressively challenged by their LSP counterparts,” wrote Benson.

Another benefit of the LSP, and other similar programs, is that it has helped to racially integrate the state’s public schools – a notable feat considering that public schools have actually become more racially segregated in recent years. Nine out of 10 studies “using valid empirical methods” have found school choice programs on average move students into less segregated private schools from more segregated public ones.

“Public schools are intractably segregated by race, mostly because students are assigned to schools based on where they live,” EdChoice wrote. “School choice has the potential to break down those residential barriers.” 

The EdChoice report summarizes, “School choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools by allowing students to find the schools that best match their needs and by introducing healthy competition that keeps schools mission-focused. It saves money by eliminating administrative bloat and rewarding good stewardship of resources. It breaks down the barriers of residential segregation, drawing students together from diverse communities.”

Concerned parents agree that school choice is the best choice in order to ensure a decent education for their children. The LSP is one of many programs that have cropped up across the country in response to the need for better academic performance, more integrated schools, and diverse options.

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