The Empirical Evidence on School Choice (OCPA)
The empirical research on school choice consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.
Americans expect and demand the right to select their own goods and services in every area other than K-12 education—including everything from food, housing, clothing, transportation, and medical care to magazines, haircuts, dry cleaning, and video games. If the government tried to assign people to live in certain neighborhoods or shop at certain grocery stores, Americans would howl in protest. They even expect and demand choice when it comes to education outside of K-12 schools—everywhere from colleges to trade schools to tutoring services.
But when it comes to K-12 education, the American idea that people should have stewardship over their own lives and choose for themselves rather than have government dictate what they receive is not embodied in public policy.
The arguments typically used to defend this lack of choice are empirically false or poorly reasoned. For example, teachers’ unions claim that choice “drains money” from public schools. But how would Americans respond if they were told that from now on they would have to receive all their medical care from a doctor assigned to them by the government, rather than from their current family doctor, on grounds that their choice to seek care from their current doctor “drains money” from the budget of the doctor chosen by the government?
Meanwhile, the idea that school choice might improve public schools is dismissed as ideological claptrap. In fact, the empirical evidence consistently shows that it is the case, and the reasons are not hard to explain. One reason choice would improve public schools is that it allows parents to find the right particular school for each individual child. Every child is unique and has unique educational needs.