Success Makes School Choice Take Top Priority

School Choice Opportunity Senators Jeffrey Piccola and Anthony Williams announced The Opportunity Scholarship Act, which expands school choice in Pennsylvania by creating a voucher program for low-income students and increases the state’s successful Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $25 million.

Scholarships for low-income students will be reserved for students in failing schools for the first two years, and then expanded to all low-income students across the state.

It is not surprising the Senate has made school choice a top priority, given the support from Gov.-elect Corbett and Pennsylvania voters, topped with the success of school choice programs nationally. A heavily researched topic, 18 out of 19 studies of randomly assigned students showed gains in academic achievement by voucher recipients, while one study found no significant difference.

Additionally, school choice has been shown to improve graduation rates. A recently released review of Milwaukee’s school choice program found¬†that not only do scholarship students graduate at a higher rate than district students, but both scholarship recipients and public schools have dramatically increased graduation rates since the creation of the Milwaukee voucher program.

More important than research results, success stories across Pennsylvania show how students are thriving thanks to educational freedom.

Choice also saves taxpayers money, as vouchers and scholarship tax credits cost substantially less than the $13,000 per-pupil spent by Pennsylvania school districts. In response to school choice success, Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,

If you look at test scores in private and public schools and adjust for things like student characteristics, public school students perform just about as well.

In other words, despite spending 3 to 5 times the cost of vouchers, and 10 times the average value of scholarships provided by the EITC, school districts are performing worse than schools of choice.  Now is the time to end assigning students to a school based on their zip code.