School Choice: Accountable and Successful

Here is a recent letter I submitted to the Delaware County Times:

A recent story carries the title, “Educators oppose guv’s voucher plan,” though the story quotes no current educators-only school employee union bosses-opposing vouchers yet offering no tangible solutions.  

It’s bad enough one union boss fights for semantics instead of results by insisting persistently failing schools be called “struggling.”   These avid defenders of the status quo then repeat two myths about voucher programs: that public schools are more accountable, and that private schools will take only the best students.

Twenty-years experience with voucher programs in other states have shown they serve students that are low-income, minority, and struggling academically.  Pennsylvania’s own experience with the Educational Improvement Tax Credit mirrors this, as private schools serve 40,000 students with an average family income of $29,000.  Most importantly, studies show voucher programs improve public schools.  That’s a good thing considering only 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s 8th graders scored proficient in reading and math.

School districts put students through lots of tests, but this hardly results in accountability.  Among the worst performing 5 percent of public schools, more than two-thirds of students cannot read at grade level and nearly as many aren’t proficient at math.  These results come from the state-designed test, which experts consider a weak standard.

What are the consequences for this failure?   Nothing, unless you consider more taxpayer funding for underachieving schools a consequence.  In contrast, school choice provides real accountability: giving parents the power to leave failure factories and choose the best school for their children.