Want to save public schools? Embrace school choice

When California adopted public school choice, for example, some schools lost students, while others gained them, as families ‘voted with their feet.’ In the end, however, both kinds of schools benefited and improved their outcomes, as those that lost students consulted with parents and focused on areas to work on in order to retain kids.

The same principle applies to private school choice. The competitive pressure placed on Florida’s public schools by its school voucher tax credit program resulted in higher reading and math scores, as well as lower suspension and absence rates. And a meta-analysis of various school choice voucher programs found that these programs have had, at best, significant positive effects, and at worst, negligible effects on education outcomes for public school kids. But a majority of the studies report had positive feedback.

Even if we ignore the benefits of competition that these programs produce for public schools, we shouldn’t forget that the point of education programs isn’t to empower schools — it’s to empower students. Families and kids choose schools for a variety of reasons, including for a safer environment, better academic, artistic or athletic programs, and even for proximity to family and friends. That right ought to be expanded, not restricted.