My colleague Inez Feltscher Stepman has noted that this is School Choice Week.

But does school choice actually help kids learn?

Foes of school choice, often teacher unions who see alternative schools as a threat, portray vouchers and charter schools negatively.

But the overwhelming evidence is that school choice does, in fact, help kids learn.

Nick Gillespie over at Reason has done a terrific job of boiling down some of this evidence for the success of school choice. (Reason, by the way, is sponsoring a January 23 event featuring Johns Hopkins' Ashley Rogers Berner, author of Pluralism and American Education: No One Way to School. Details and RSVP are included in Gillespie's article.

Gillespie quotes from A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, fourth edition, by Greg Foster.

Relying on 100 empirical studies, Foster finds that there is "a vast body of research shows educational choice programs improve academic outcomes for students and schools, saves taxpayers money, reduces segregation in schools and improves students’ civic values."

Here is some evidence (as culled by Gillespie):

  • Eighteen empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the gold standard of social science. Of those, 14 find choice improves student outcomes: six find all students benefit and eight find some benefit and some are not visibly affected. Two studies find no visible effect, and two studies find Louisiana's voucher program—where most of the eligible private schools were scared away from the program by an expectation of hostile future action from regulators—had a negative effect.
  • Thirty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice's effect on students' academic outcomes in public schools. Of those, 31 find choice improved public schools. One finds no visible effect. One finds a negative effect.
  • Twenty-eight empirical studies have examined school choice's fiscal impact on taxpayers and public schools. Of these, 25 find school choice programs save money. Three find the programs they study are revenue neutral. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.
  • Ten empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of those, nine find school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools, and one finds no net effect on segregation. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.
  • Eleven empirical studies have examined school choice's effect on civic values and practices, such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of those, eight find school choice improves civic values and practices. Three find no visible effect from school choice. No empirical study has found that school choice has a negative effect on civic values and practices.

School choice would be a no-brainer if instead of fighting school choice tooth and nail, unions viewed them as welcome competition.

If school choice poses a threat to established schools, there shouldn't be anything preventing those schools from upping their games and becoming competitive.

That would be the win-win way to look at school choice.