Five Reasons to be Thankful for School Choice

Education is such a fundamental element of American life, we often take it for granted. Yet the fundamental nature of education is precisely what makes it the political policy every citizen should care about.

Whether you have children or not, education policy affects you. Children spend 12 of the most formative years of their lives -- typically seven hours a day, 180 days per year -- in school. That’s a minimum of 1,260 hours per year, or 15,120 total hours from the first grade through the 12th grade. During those thousands of hours, the minds of American youth are being influenced, for better or worse. (And with roughly 90 percent of kids attending government schools, it’s usually “for worse.”)

Even if you are not the parent of a child in the U.S. school system, the old cliché holds true: These students are “tomorrow’s leaders.” The children being educated (or indoctrinated) in today’s schools will be the lawmakers, business owners, police officers, teachers, and lawyers of the future. You’ll encounter them in everything you do -- from shopping at the grocery store to getting a cavity filled.

Do you really want to live in a society comprised of citizens who can’t do basic math? Or be neighbors with people who have no idea what caused the Civil War or what happened during the Holocaust? Or how about living in a town where the mayor believes, as a Massachusetts public school district does, that condoms should be handed out to five-year-old children?

Some of these scary scenarios are inevitable, regardless of what school system our nation adopts. However, our country is assuredly doomed if we continue down the current path of widespread government control of education. The good news is that the education choice movement is growing. This Thanksgiving, be grateful for school choice for these five reasons:

Diversity: Education choice promotes diversity in the types of schools (charter, private, parochial, home, etc.) it supports, the types of education (STEM, classical, vocational/technical, art-centered, etc.) it promulgates, and in the types of students the schools enroll.  

EdChoice.org puts it perfectly: “Choice may tend to produce positive results because you can’t get much more segregated than a system in which students are assigned to schools based on where their parents can afford to live.” 

What’s more, EdChoice continues, “Every study of school voucher programs… shows they help students go from more segregated schools to more integrated schools.”

Safety: Schools of choice are safer and more wholesome. Even the government admits it! A recent survey, “School Choice in the United States: 2019,” released by the National Center for Education Statistics, found, “In 2017, a higher percentage of public school students ages 12–18 than of private school students in the same age group reported knowing of a gang presence at school (9 vs. 2 percent), seeing hate-related graffiti at school (25 vs. 6 percent), and being called hate-related words at school (7 vs. 4 percent) during the school year.”

Helping the neediest: Schools of choice disproportionately help minority and low-income families—those who need it the most. Middle and upper-income families benefit from increased choice, too, of course, but families who lack the means to escape crime-ridden, disadvantaged neighborhoods benefit more from a system that affords them the opportunity to get out and have access to high-quality learning.   

Saving taxpayers money: According to EdChoice, “Researchers have conducted 52 analyses on the fiscal effects of private school choice programs. Forty-seven found these programs generated overall fiscal savings for taxpayers; four found programs were cost-neutral; and one found a Louisiana program for students with exceptional special needs generated net costs.”

Families are happier. The Heartland Institute’s Timothy Benson reported recently on a large study conducted by Corey DeAngelis, director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation. DeAngelis’ study, Benson writes, “finds charter school families are 16 percent more likely to report [being ‘very satisfied’ with their schools] than TPS (Traditional Public School) families. These numbers are even higher for private school families. Families of students in non-religious private schools were 27 percent more likely to be very satisfied than TPS families. Catholic school families and non-Catholic religious school families were 26 percent and 30 percent, respectively, more satisfied than TPS families.”

There are many reasons to be thankful we live in America, and if legislators allow the education choice momentum to continue, “universal school choice” will soon move to the top of that list.

Teresa Mull (tmull@heartland.org) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute and editor of gunpowdermagazine.com.

Education is such a fundamental element of American life, we often take it for granted. Yet the fundamental nature of education is precisely what makes it the political policy every citizen should care about.

Whether you have children or not, education policy affects you. Children spend 12 of the most formative years of their lives -- typically seven hours a day, 180 days per year -- in school. That’s a minimum of 1,260 hours per year, or 15,120 total hours from the first grade through the 12th grade. During those thousands of hours, the minds of American youth are being influenced, for better or worse. (And with roughly 90 percent of kids attending government schools, it’s usually “for worse.”)

Even if you are not the parent of a child in the U.S. school system, the old cliché holds true: These students are “tomorrow’s leaders.” The children being educated (or indoctrinated) in today’s schools will be the lawmakers, business owners, police officers, teachers, and lawyers of the future. You’ll encounter them in everything you do -- from shopping at the grocery store to getting a cavity filled.

Do you really want to live in a society comprised of citizens who can’t do basic math? Or be neighbors with people who have no idea what caused the Civil War or what happened during the Holocaust? Or how about living in a town where the mayor believes, as a Massachusetts public school district does, that condoms should be handed out to five-year-old children?

Some of these scary scenarios are inevitable, regardless of what school system our nation adopts. However, our country is assuredly doomed if we continue down the current path of widespread government control of education. The good news is that the education choice movement is growing. This Thanksgiving, be grateful for school choice for these five reasons:

Diversity: Education choice promotes diversity in the types of schools (charter, private, parochial, home, etc.) it supports, the types of education (STEM, classical, vocational/technical, art-centered, etc.) it promulgates, and in the types of students the schools enroll.  

EdChoice.org puts it perfectly: “Choice may tend to produce positive results because you can’t get much more segregated than a system in which students are assigned to schools based on where their parents can afford to live.” 

What’s more, EdChoice continues, “Every study of school voucher programs… shows they help students go from more segregated schools to more integrated schools.”

Safety: Schools of choice are safer and more wholesome. Even the government admits it! A recent survey, “School Choice in the United States: 2019,” released by the National Center for Education Statistics, found, “In 2017, a higher percentage of public school students ages 12–18 than of private school students in the same age group reported knowing of a gang presence at school (9 vs. 2 percent), seeing hate-related graffiti at school (25 vs. 6 percent), and being called hate-related words at school (7 vs. 4 percent) during the school year.”

Helping the neediest: Schools of choice disproportionately help minority and low-income families—those who need it the most. Middle and upper-income families benefit from increased choice, too, of course, but families who lack the means to escape crime-ridden, disadvantaged neighborhoods benefit more from a system that affords them the opportunity to get out and have access to high-quality learning.   

Saving taxpayers money: According to EdChoice, “Researchers have conducted 52 analyses on the fiscal effects of private school choice programs. Forty-seven found these programs generated overall fiscal savings for taxpayers; four found programs were cost-neutral; and one found a Louisiana program for students with exceptional special needs generated net costs.”

Families are happier. The Heartland Institute’s Timothy Benson reported recently on a large study conducted by Corey DeAngelis, director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation. DeAngelis’ study, Benson writes, “finds charter school families are 16 percent more likely to report [being ‘very satisfied’ with their schools] than TPS (Traditional Public School) families. These numbers are even higher for private school families. Families of students in non-religious private schools were 27 percent more likely to be very satisfied than TPS families. Catholic school families and non-Catholic religious school families were 26 percent and 30 percent, respectively, more satisfied than TPS families.”

There are many reasons to be thankful we live in America, and if legislators allow the education choice momentum to continue, “universal school choice” will soon move to the top of that list.

Teresa Mull (tmull@heartland.org) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute and editor of gunpowdermagazine.com.