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Archive for November 19th, 2019

School choice is based on the simple premise that we’ll get better results if school budgets are distributed to parents so they can pick from schools that compete for their kids (and dollars).

The current system, by contrast, is an inefficient monopoly that largely caters to the interests of teacher unions and school bureaucrats. Which is why more money and more money and more money and more money and more money (you get the point) never translates into better outcomes.

This is why even the Washington Post has editorialized for choice-based reform.

A few years ago, I shared a bunch of data showing that school choice boosts academic results for kids.

As part of our recognition of National Education Week, let’s augment those results with some more-recent findings.

There’s new evidence, for instance, that Florida’s choice system is producing good results.

…new evidence from the Urban Institute, which…examined a larger data set of some 89,000 students. The researchers compared those who used school vouchers to public-school students with comparable math and reading scores, ethnicity, gender and disability status. …High school voucher students attend either two-year or four-year institutions at a rate of 64%, according to the report, compared to 54% for non-voucher students. For four-year colleges only, some 27% of voucher students attend compared to 19% for public-school peers. …About 12% of voucher students attended private universities, double the rate of non-voucher students. …Voucher students who entered the program in elementary or middle school were 11% more likely to get a bachelor’s degree, while students who entered in high school were 20% more likely. …High schoolers who stayed in the voucher program for at least three years “were about 5 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, a 50 percent increase.”

A column published by the Foundation for Economic Education notes the positive outcomes in Wisconsin.

Private schools and independent public charter schools are more productive than district public schools, …according to report author Corey DeAngelis… DeAngelis compares the productivity of schools in cities throughout Wisconsin based on per-pupil funding and student achievement. Wisconsin’s four private-school parental choice programs currently enroll over 40,000 students combined, and more than 43,000 students are enrolled in charter schools. …Compared to Wisconsin district public schools, private schools participating in parental choice programs receive 27 percent less per-pupil funding, and charter schools receive 22 percent less. Yet these schools get more bang for every education buck, according to DeAngelis: “I find that private schools produce 2.27 more points on the Accountability Report Card for every $1,000 invested than district-run public schools [across 26 cities], demonstrating a 36 percent cost-effectiveness advantage for private schools. Independent charter schools produce 3.02 more points on the Accountability Report Card for every $1,000 invested than district-run public schools [throughout Milwaukee and Racine], demonstrating a 54 percent cost-effectiveness advantage for independent charter schools.”

A study looking at 11 school choice programs found very positive results.

Today 26 states and the District of Columbia have some private school choice program, and the trend is for more: Half of the programs have been established in the past five years. …a new study from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas shows…that voucher students show “statistically significant” improvement in math and reading test scores. The researchers found that vouchers on average increase the reading scores of students who get them by about 0.27 standard deviations and their math scores by about 0.15 standard deviations. In laymen’s terms, this means that on average voucher students enjoy the equivalent of several months of additional learning compared to non-voucher students. …“When you do the math, students achieve more when they have access to private school choice,” says Patrick J. Wolf, who conducted the study with M. Danish Shakeel and Kaitlin P. Anderson. …The Arkansas results aren’t likely to change union minds because vouchers are a mortal threat to their public-school monopoly. But for anyone who cares about how much kids learn, especially the poorest kids, the Arkansas study is welcome news that school choice delivers.

Even if choice is just limited to charter schools, there are positive outcomes, as seen from research on Michigan’s program.

Charter students in Detroit on average score 60% more proficient on state tests than kids attending the city’s traditional public schools. Eighteen of the top 25 schools in Detroit are charters while 23 of the bottom 25 are traditional schools. Two studies from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (2013, 2015) found that students attending Michigan charters gained on average an additional two months of learning every year over their traditional school counterparts. Charter school students in Detroit gained three months.

Back in 2016, Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal shared some evidence about the benefits of choice.

Barack Obama…spent his entire presidency trying to shut down a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that gives poor black and brown children access to private schools and, according to the Education Department’s own evaluation, improves their chances of graduating by as much as 21 percentage points. …Democrats continue to throw ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer money at the problem in return for political support from the teachers unions that control public education. …Harvard professor Martin West describes some of the more recent school-choice research. Students at Boston charter high schools “are more likely to take and pass Advance Placement courses and to enroll in a four-year rather than a two-year college,” writes Mr. West. Attending a charter middle school in Harlem “sharply reduced the chances of teen pregnancy (for girls) and incarceration (for boys),” and “a Florida charter school increased students’ earnings as adults.” Mr. West concludes that “attending a school of choice, whether private or charter, is especially beneficial for minority students living in urban areas.”

A study by the World Bank found big benefits from choice in Washington, D.C., with minorities being the biggest beneficiaries.

This paper develops and estimates an equilibrium model of charter school entry and school choice. In the model, households choose among public, private, and charter schools, and a regulator authorizes charter entry and mandates charter exit. The model is estimated for Washington, D.C. According to the estimates, charters generate net social gains by providing additional school options, and they benefit non-white, low-income, and middle-school students the most. Further, policies that raise the supply of prospective charter entrants in combination with high authorization standards enhance social welfare. …In order to quantify the net social gains generated by charter schools, we run a counterfactual consisting of not having charters at all in 2007. …charter students who switch into public schools outside Ward 3 experience lower proficiency, quality and value added than before. Proficiency losses are quite severe at the middle school level and for poor black students, who on average lose 6.4 and 5.3 percentage points out of their baseline average proficiency… On average all student groups lose welfare due to the loss of school options, but losses are the greatest for those previously most likely to attend charters. Middle school students, who gain much from the quantity and quality of options offered by charters, are particularly hurt. Further, poor blacks in middle school experience a loss of about 15 percent of their baseline welfare. …The 25 percent of students most hurt by charter removal are non-white, have an average household income of $27,000 and experience an average welfare loss equivalent to 19 percent of their income. …total social benefits fall by about $77,000,000 when the 59 charters are removed.

This map from the study is worth some careful attention.

It reveals that the rich and white families who live in northwestern D.C. don’t have any big need for choice. It’s the poor families (mostly black) elsewhere in the city who are anxious for alternatives.

(Which is why the NAACP’s decision to side with unions over black children is so reprehensible.)

The good news is that there’s ongoing movement to expand choice in some states.

The Wall Street Journal opined about significant progress in Florida.

With little fanfare this autumn, another 18,000 young Floridians joined the ranks of Americans who enjoy school choice. More than 100,000 students, all from families of modest means, already attend private schools using the state’s main tax-credit scholarship. But the wait list this spring ran to the thousands, so in May the state created a voucher program to clear the backlog. …This is a huge victory for school choice. The first cohort of voucher recipients is 71% black and Hispanic, according to state data. Eighty-seven percent have household incomes at or below 185% of the poverty line, or $47,638 for a family of four. The law gives priority to these students… Mr. DeSantis’s opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, said he would wind down the scholarships. CNN’s exit poll says 18% of black women voted for Mr. DeSantis… That’s decisive, since the Governor won by fewer than 40,000 ballots.

The final passage is worth emphasis. Reformers can attract votes from minority families who are ill-served by the government’s education monopoly,

Parents in low-income communities aren’t stupid. Once they figure out that government schools are run for the benefit of unions rather than children, they will respond accordingly.

And here’s some positive news from Tennessee.

Governor Bill Lee fulfilled a campaign promise on Friday when he signed a school voucher bill into law. …its passage is a big victory for the Governor and even more for Tennessee children trapped in failing public schools. Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the measure will provide debit cards averaging $7,300 each year for low-income families to use for education-related expenses. The money can pay for private-school tuition, textbooks or a tutor, among other things. The program is capped at a disappointingly low 15,000 students. Participation is also restricted to only two of the state’s 95 counties—Shelby and Davidson… This is where the need is greatest, given that these two counties have the most failing public schools.

To be sure, the union bosses are fighting back.

Over the years, we’ve seen setbacks in states where we hoped for progress, such as Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Let’s close with this very simple message…

…and this very persuasive video.

P.S. There’s also evidence that school choice is better for children’s mental health since it’s associated with lower suicide rates. That’s a nice fringe benefit, much like the data on school choice and jobs.

P.P.S. Getting rid of the Department of Education would be a good idea, but the battle for school choice is largely won and lost on the state and local level.

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