Public School Choice Improves Student Achievement Essay

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School Choice Improves Student Achievement

In his new budget, President Obama proposed to substantially increase federal spending to improve public schools. Yet steady spending increases of the last three decades resulted in little change in the poor achievement of students that worries many citizens. Much research, however, shows that what works well is parental choice among schools fairly competing for students as in the case of traditional, tuition-based private schools. Rigorous studies comparing students randomly selected or not to oversubscribed private and charter schools as well as large, statistically controlled surveys show that these schools excel in achievement and parental satisfaction.

Surveys show the majority of American parents, especially those in big cities, would send their children to private schools if they could afford the tuition. In most countries, they can do just that since governments pay both public and private schools to educate students. In the 2002 Zelman v. Harris decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that public scholarships awarded to students to attend private schools do not violate the Constitution provided parents choose their children’s schools. Still, the teachers unions and public school boards have generally succeeded in retaining the public school monopoly in which public authorities choose children’s schools.

The nation’s more than 4,000 charter schools have a private school advantage since private boards operate them with public funding. Under state regulations, local district school boards can charter these schools for a fixed term. Eleven states, however, do not allow charter schools, and most of the others put caps on their numbers. Indicating demand, 59 percent of the natio...

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...stem yielded excellent achievement results and parent satisfaction. Responding to newly freed markets, for-profit schools grew fastest. By 2008 ten growing chains of schools operated as many as 30 schools. The transformed system interjected not only competition among providers but new technologies including continuous achievement monitoring and Internet reporting to parents on students’ progress. Presumably for-profit competition would work just as well in capitalistic America as social democratic Sweden.

Spending more on traditional public schools, as President Obama proposes, has been tried and has repeatedly failed. Nor have the many public school reforms of the last few decades worked. What have worked well in education and in providing services and goods in other fields are free, competitive markets. They are the best hope for improving American schools.

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