Improving Public Education...Through School Choice

NOVEMBER 28, 2011 | by NATHAN BENEFIELD

Here is a letter to the editor I submitted to the Pocono Record, correcting the record on school choice:

Your editorial, "Support your public schools" bashes school choice while offering no solutions for failing schools and showing an amazing ability to ignore the facts.

It starts by saying a proposed school voucher plan would offer "grants of up to $29,000 per poor family," which is just plain wrong.  The average voucher amount would be close to $7,000 per student—about one-half the $14,000 public schools spend annually per student in Pennsylvania.  The difference would go back into public schools, allowing for additional resources for remaining students and saving taxpayer money.

You also write that there is "no evidence that taxpayer-funded school 'choice' boosts test scores."  In fact, there is ample evidence: Nine out of 10 gold standard studies show that voucher students learned more, and no study shows voucher students do worse.  And voucher programs in places such as Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee have improved graduation rates and parental satisfaction while reducing segregation.  This is why parents in places with school choice want more of it.

In the bottom 5 percent of schools, more than two-thirds of students cannot read at grade level and nearly as many aren't proficient at math.  These students witnessed more than 4,500 acts of violence in their schools last year.  Rather than paying lip service to "supporting public education," lawmakers have an opportunity to actually do something about it by sending a lifeline to more than 80,000 children in violent and failing schools.  But voucher programs do more than rescue these students, they have a demonstrated record of doing exactly what your editorial calls for—improving public schools.



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