Government And School School choice will improve education in America. Public schools are grossly inefficient, and are not educating many of America’s youths adequately. Schools that are run independent from local government bureaucracy provide better education at lower cost. School choice would allow more students to attend better schools. School choice is a potent educational reform that is far more effective than increased spending.
The fears of opponents of school choice are factually unfounded. School choice is necessary to improve American education. Through allowing more parental choice in education, school choice forces education into a free market environment. As it is now, parents send children to the nearest school, assigned to them by the school district. If a family is wealthy enough and chooses to do so, parents can send children to private schools.
However, this family then pays twice for one education. They still pay their taxes, and they pay the tuition for the private school. Under a school choice plan, any parent who decides to send their child to a private school will receive a scholarship from the government, redeemable for tuition at scholarship accepting private schools. The scholarship dollar amount is far below that of the average cost per student per year at public schools, but would allow millions of parents who cannot presently afford private tuition to do so. If a school performed poorly, parents would choose to remove their children, and then send to them to better schools.
If a school began losing all its students, and therefore all its funding, the school would desire to improve. Under the current system, government schools get your money whether they are doing a good job or not. Milton Friedman was one of the first people to propose a school choice plan. Since he did so over a quarter century ago, support has expanded rapidly. However, few plans for school choice have actually been enacted. The city of Milwaukee enacted a program designed by future choice icon Polly Williams.
She asked the simple yet brilliant question, “Why not allow tax dollars to go to the schools that are working?” (Harmer, 162) The plan does not allow religious schools to participate, and allows only low-income children to take part. Schools that participate can have no more than 49% of their students are scholarship receiving students. The extremely limited scale demonstration has had little effect on Milwaukee public schools, but has enabled many students to attend better schools. The number of students in the choice program has grown every year, in 1990 there were 341, in 1994 there were 846. (McGroarty, 36) In California in 1993, the Parental Choice in Education Initiative was placed on the ballot. The initiative was defeated by more than 2 to 1. However, proponents were outspent by a factor of 4 to 1.
Unions such as the AFL-CIO, Nation Education Association, and California Teachers association raised over $17 million. Proponents raised only $4.1 million, and were left with only $2.5 million once they got the initiative on the ballot. (Harmer, 147) Demonstrators attempted to physically prevent people from signing the petitions to get the initiative on the ballot. People deliberately signed the petition multiple times to hamper school choice efforts. One person signed 23 times. Principles and teachers sent home anti-school choice information with children. School boards, such as that of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), illegally used public funds and forums to send an anti-choice message.
From the standpoint of well to do Washington, D.C. suburbs, a school choice plan may seem unnecessary. Choice plans are not designed to help the upper-middle or upper class children. David Harmer wrote, “In my travels as president of the Excellence through Choice in Education League (ExCEL), I rarely met rich white suburban Republicans who were desperate for alternative schools.” (Harmer, 114) They already get a good education from government schools. However, rural poor and inner-city children do not have that luxury.
For example, in the city of Milwaukee, only 40% of freshman will eventually graduate from high school, and the average GPA for students is a D+. (McGroarty, 30) School choice plans would help these students the most. The people most involved in the education system are the ones who most easily realize the problems of government schools. The Wall Street Journal wrote that, “The California State Census Data Center, after analyzing the 1990 Census, found that about 18.2% of the state’s public school teachers send their children to private schools. That’s nearly twice the statewide average for all households, which is 9.7%” (Harmer, 28) College entrance exam scores have been dropping across the board, and the US often ranks dead last in international comparisons among industrialized nations.
From 1960 to 1992, the average SAT score dropped 76 points. If one were to include the reenterings of the SAT test, scores would drop even further. (Harmer, 19) The landmark study by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk, claimed, “Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents.” (Harmer, 25) In addition academic failure, public schools are failing to produce good citizens. According to a Tulane study, 20% of suburban high schooler’s condoned shooting someone who had stolen something of theirs. (Harmer, 29) The answer, contrary to what many education reformers claim, is not to throw more money into schools. Only one nation in the entire world spends more money per student, per year than the US, Switzerland.
Japan, whose schools consistently outperform those of the US, spends only half as much money per student. Accounting for inflation, per student expenditure has increased 40 percent since 1982, and has tripled since 1960. (Harmer, 38) The image of the “criminally-underfunded” public school is false. Class size has also failed to improve education. The pupil teacher ratio declined from 25.8:1 in 1960 to 17.3:1 in 1991. Even in urban public schools, the ratio is as low as 17.9:1.
(McGroarty, 16) The image of the over crowded inner city school is also false. There is no relationship between spending and educational achievement in grade schools. A recent comparison of per student expenditure and scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests by Forbes and Right Data Associates found the correlation coefficient for a linear relationship between spending and test scores to be 0.12. (This value could range from -1 to 1, the closer the absolute value of the correlation coefficient is to 1, the stronger the relationship.) (B …