Mythbuster Report: School Choice Doesn’t Harm Public Schools
This week another study was released on a state school choice program – this time, Ohio’s “EdChoice” scholarship programs, which helps about 55,000 low-income students and students attending low-performing public schools attend a participating private school. The project examined the impacts of the program on public school district enrollments, finances, and educational outcomes.
Private school choice programs provide educational options for students so they can address their individual needs in the educational setting that works best for them. Such programs also introduce competition into the education system, which motivates all schools to improve. This benefits participating students as well as students who do not participate in the program, truly a “rising tide that lifts all boats.”
A large body of national research – over two dozen studies as well as a few meta-analyses – has found evidence of positive competition-related effects in school choice programs. Yet some critics continue to claim that they reduce traditional public school finances, perpetuate racial segregation, and cause the overall academic performance of public schools to decline. This study of the Ohio EdChoice program proved just the opposite. The results revealed:
- Total school district spending per student was unchanged. In fact, there was evidence that the program led to a relative increase in districts’ spending per student because districts retained their ability to raise local revenue. Combined with the decrease in student enrollments, this led to a 10-15% increase in local revenue per student that remained enrolled.
- The academic achievement of students who remained enrolled in the public schools was significantly higher than it would have been had districts not been exposed to the program. For the average student in a district exposed to the EdChoice program open to students attending low-performing public schools, their district’s achievement went from approximately the second percentile (the 12th lowest-achieving district in the state) to approximately the sixth percentile (the 37th lowest-achieving district).
- Local public school district enrollments were approximately 10-15% lower, and racial and ethnic segregation was about 10-15% lower than it would have otherwise been. As a result of the EdChoice program, Black, Hispanic, and Native American students attended schools with a greater share of White and Asian American students than they would have in the absence of the program.
This study adds to the growing body of evidence that school choice programs benefit students and do not destroy public education, as some in the traditional public school establishment claim. The Institute for Justice, a national, nonprofit, public interest law firm that works to protect individual liberties, including the right to educational freedom, published this guide on “12 Myths and Realities About Private Educational Choice Programs” to address some of the false claims made by those who fight the creation and expansion of school choice programs.
It’s important that facts, not politics or the preservation of the status quo, guide public policy debates about how to best meet the educational needs of children and their families. Our kids’ futures are too important to be led astray and not provide them every opportunity to succeed.