Safer Public Schools: Another Benefit of Education Choice

When parents are forced to choose between safety and academics, parents overwhelmingly choose safety. That's a choice no parent should have to make, but that's the reality for Philadelphia families where more than 100 assaults, thefts, and weapon possessions occur each year.

Thankfully, Philadelphia schools have seen modest improvements in their school safety numbers. New research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that “crime drops when academically underperforming schools close.” And those school closures are driven by the expansion of education alternatives.

Over the past 15 years, enrollment in Philadelphia district (traditional public) schools has declined by 33 percent, due in part to a significant expansion of educational options. With the advent of charter schools and tax credit scholarships, Philly parents have more freedom to choose a school that meets their child’s needs. This has naturally caused enrollment shifts, as some students choose to leave their traditional district school in favor of charter, Catholic, or Jewish schools. Declining enrollment has led to closures, with the district choosing to close the worst performing schools.

A different study by the same authors concluded students who left their former, underperforming schools for better schools experienced academic gains as well.

Philadelphia is offering a practical blueprint of how to improve student safety and academic performance through education choice.

Take the story of Anthony Samuels from Strawberry Mansion. “The only male in [his] family that doesn’t have a record,” Samuels broke the cycle of crime and poverty by attending a better school on a tax credit scholarship.

While thousands of students have moved to safer, better schools, thousands more remain on charter and tax credit scholarship waitlists. The current system was set up 100+200+ years ago. Rather than use it as a justification to keep kids in failing, unsafe schools, we need to expand parents’ choices to meet demand.

Parents shouldn’t have to choose between safety and academic quality. They can have both. It’s time to raise the limits on student opportunity and safety.