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November 30 2014

Competition and Parental Choice Improve Public School Performance in New York City

Vicki E. Alger

Recently Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, which is one of New York City’s most successful charter school networks, to talk about how charters are shaking up the education establishment. This eye-opening 17-minute interview, How Eva Moskowitz Outmuscled the Teachers Union, is a must-see for anyone interested in how great no-nonsense schools get the job done.

Research has long shown that competition improves school performanceMoskowitz explains in The Wall Street Journal how competition from charter schools is encouraging New York City district public schools to improve:

Upon his re-election in 2006, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein offered the free use of underutilized school facilities to a bumper crop of charter schools opening that year—including my first. Fueled by this policy, charter-school enrollment in the city grew from 11,000 to almost 70,000 by the end of Mr. Bloomberg’s second term in 2013, and my one school grew to 22.

As the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools—free public schools open to all children in New York City through a random lottery—I’ve seen firsthand how allowing “co-location” with district schools has helped charter schools and their students thrive. …

Moskowitz explains that this situation makes it possible to compare the performance of district public schools located in areas with high concentrations of charter schools—and thus facing high levels of competition for students—with other district public schools in areas with low concentrations of charter schools and therefore little competition for students. She explains that:

Of the 16 charter-rich districts, 11 rose in the rankings. And of the eight among those 16 with the highest charter enrollment, all rose save one. The district that jumped furthest, rocketing up 11 spots between 2006 and 2014, was District 5 in Central Harlem, which has the city’s highest charter-school enrollment (43%).

And what about the 16 charter-light districts? Thirteen fell in the rankings, and not one rose. …

Charter-school gains do not come at the expense of district schools. Actually, the opposite is true. The district schools in charter-rich districts improved in response to the competition. As judged solely by district-school results, 11 of the 16 charter-rich districts moved up in the rankings.

The results are clear: Parent choice and school competition improve educational opportunities for children in New York City.

Sadly, defenders of the status quo persist in their attacks against charter schools and other education options claiming competition hurts traditional district public schools. NYC’s experience is just the latest example of how competition benefits students, schools, and taxpayers. The last policy we should be advancing is limiting education options. On the contrary, parental choice should be wholly unfettered. After all, parents, not politicians or special interest groups, know their children best.



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