School Choice Results

January 22, 2020

By John McClaughry

Parental choice in education has been an important issue for the past two decades. Where choice programs have been in effect, first in Milwaukee, then Washington DC, Indiana, and Florida, critics have charged that letting parents choose their children’s schools gains little or nothing at all, and should terminated.

Adrian Moore and Corey DeAngelis of the Reason Foundation, which is pro school choice, looked at sixteen random assignment studies. They found ten of the sixteen exhibited positive student test scores, compared to two negative results, both from groups in Louisiana. The remaining four didn’t show a trend either way.

The authors point out that the expense of the school choice vouchers was far below the public school costs in their locales. In DC, for example, charter school pupils achieved about the same math and reading outcomes for about one third the cost of public schools.
Looking at outcomes beyond test scores, the studies found that the choice schools were far safer than traditional public schools, and those schools rated better on civic outcomes, incidence of crime, and racial integration. The competition from charter schools noticeably improves the outcomes at traditional public schools, because those schools are trying harder to please their customers when the customers have a choice.

Parental choice in education isn’t a magic cureall, but on balance, choice produces as good or better educations, in safer environments, at less than half the cost to the public.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jay Eshelman January 24, 2020 at 3:19 pm

There is a ray of hope on the horizon. The Supreme Court appears to be ready declare the so-called anti-school choice Blaine Amendments in individual States unconstitutional. The ruling also reaffirms the SCOTUS decision in Zelman v. Harris in 2002, when it decided an Ohio school voucher program did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, even if the vouchers could be used for private, religious schools.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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