After months of anticipation, the Publix Super Market near me finally opened. Anyone driving by the Kroger grocery store in the neighborhood would expect to see an empty parking lot and boarded-up windows. After all, we’ve been told for years by the anti-school choice crowd that competition would “destroy public schools,” so we would naturally assume the same thing would happen here. It turns out that the competition from Publix forced Kroger to get a facelift, step up their customer service, and consistently provide the products that would keep their customers happily returning. If this is what competition is capable of in grocery stores, I think educational freedom, also known as school choice, would be a very good thing. 

We don’t have to wonder about the impact of educational freedom on the existing public schools in communities where it is implemented. There are states that have given families the freedom to choose the best learning environment for their children long enough to provide real evidence. The data cited by EdChoice supports the idea that competition within the K-12 education world benefits all students, not just those who choose something other than their public school. They found that “Of the 28 studies that examine the competitive effects of school choice programs on public schools, 25 found positive effects, one saw no visible effect, and two found some negative effects for some kids.”

Florida is a great state to look at for long-term effects since it has two decades of data relating to its various programs surrounding educational freedom. Educators and researchers David Figlio, Cassandra M. D. Hart, and Krzysztof Karbownik found that providing access to different educational opportunities raises test scores, improves behavior, and makes strides in closing the achievement gap between low-income and wealthy students. These results could be a reflection of families choosing learning environments that meet the specific needs of their students, or it could be that the competition motivated the public schools to improve their instruction, curriculum, and expectations. Regardless, the students, their families, and ultimately, the communities benefitted from the opportunities provided by educational freedom. 

Similar evidence can be found when looking at Ohio’s educational freedom programs. Not only did student achievement improve, but contrary to the opponents of school choice, the public schools did not financially implode. Much of the rhetoric surrounding any type of educational freedom program meant to scare parents, teachers, and the community away from it is just that- rhetoric. There is no data to support their claims and plenty of data to discount them. 

Few people would be content with only one option for purchasing groceries in their community. No one in the United States would assent to only being able to choose from government-run grocery stores. We know that free markets drive competition, and competition drives excellence. The education and formation of our children are much more important than groceries. We must demand educational freedom that allows every family, not the government,  to choose the best learning environment for their children.