National School Choice Week (NSCW) provides an annual opportunity to celebrate existing educational opportunities, educate parents about their options, and advocate for expanding school choice programs. This NSCW, let’s also address a few school choice myths.
Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about school choice?
A. School choice benefits the students and families who remain in public schools.
B. School choice programs drain money from public education.
C. School choice benefits teachers.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH! If families are happy with their residentially-assigned public schools, they will not leave, even if given the option to participate in school choice programs. So the existence of school choice options should not be a threat to thriving public school systems. In reality, school choice inspires public schools to improve. Of the 29 studies that have analyzed the impact of private school choice programs, 26 found statistically significant positive effects of private school choice competition on the outcomes in public schools. School choice is a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Competition works in other industries—and let’s be clear, K-12 education is a massive industry that spends $750 billion annually—and it also works in K-12 education. School choice doesn’t destroy public schools, as opponents claim; it improves schools, resulting in positive impacts for all students. In addition, the existence of a school choice option gives parents who wish to remain in their neighborhood public school the leverage they need to convince the local school board to be more responsive. If a parent has a school choice option, the school board knows that the parent can leave if their students’ needs are not met.
B. LIE! Education funding does not belong to government schools or buildings. Education funding is intended for the education of children, not for guaranteeing a revenue stream for a particular institution. The use of government funding provided by programs such as Pell Grants, food stamps, and Section 8 housing is not limited to one particular government institution. Why should K-12 funding be limited to one residentially-assigned government option? School choice programs are designed to return per-pupil funding to the intended beneficiaries of that funding: the students and their families. Private school choice programs provide public funding to educate a child, and therefore are an important component of “public education.”
In addition, depending on how they are structured, programs can enable local schools to keep funding for private school choice program-participating students who are no longer attending government schools. The average cost to educate a child in a traditional public school (approximately $15,000) almost always exceeds the public funding provided for each child’s school choice scholarship. School choice programs, such as education savings accounts, give parents access to a portion of the per-pupil funding allocated for each child. The school district can access the remaining funding, including funds provided by the federal government.
C. TRUTH! School choice policies benefit teachers, as well. Multiple studies found that competition provides by private school choice and charter school options resulted in higher teacher salaries in nearby public schools. When multiple educational options exist, the public school system has to compete in order to attract and retain talented educators. Education professionals also benefit professionally from new educational opportunities, including microschools and learning pods, that are growing across the country. Analysis from Florida revealed that teachers who left to launch new educational options are happier and more satisfied.
School choice benefits students, families, and teachers. According to a December 2022 survey, 77% of parents with school-aged children support school choice policies that allow education funding to follow the child. Clearly, the demand for school choice is growing, and school choice programs should be created and expanded to meet the needs of parents and students.
For more information about school choice myths, watch IWF Education Freedom Center director Ginny Gentles and American Federation for Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis discuss Debunking Education Freedom Myths During National School Choice Week here.