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Press Release

    School Vouchers Help Public Schools

    08/27/2003

    One of the major tenets of liberalism is the readiness to sacrifice the rights and freedoms of the individual for the good of the state.

    That’s why some liberals oppose school choice. Everyone recognizes that giving a kid in a failing public school the option to attend a private school is better for that kid. However, liberals argue that if we allow kids the right to pick their school, the result will be a wholesale abandonment of the public school monopoly. (Of course, why liberals think public schools are so inferior an option that they can’t compete with private schools is another matter altogether.) These opponents of vouchers wring their hands and cry that vouchers will “weaken” public schools by “taking dollars out” or permitting private schools to “cherry pick” the best students.

    All of these concerns are unfounded. The Left can’t understand that by permitting individuals the freedom to choose their school, new pressures are created that will improve all schools—including the public schools that are seemingly going to be abandoned.

    A new study of the impact of competition in Florida from the Manhattan Institute reinforces this point. The state of Florida’s A+ program forces students to take a standardized test, and then grades schools based on student performance. Students in schools that receive a failing “F” grade for any two years in a four year period become eligible for a school voucher.

    In When Schools Compete: The Effect of Vouchers on Florida Public School Achievement, Dr. Jay Greene and Marcus Winters found that Florida public schools improved with this competition, and that the public schools facing failing grades improved the most. Of course, the students given vouchers are better off—but the failing schools these students can now leave are also performing better! It’s exactly the opposite of the liberal gloom and doom prediction. (the full report is available here) Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a national leader on education competition, and his vision of education competition is starting to bear fruit in the sunshine state.

    Of course, facts and evidence will never be enough to convince the teachers’ unions that education competition is a good thing. For far too long, the public schools monopolies have been run as a jobs program first, with education only as the secondary mission. Simply look at the ratio of actual classroom educators to support staff in the United States. In the vast majority of school districts, there are more employees not teaching than teaching. Vouchers and competition brings competitive pressure, which over time will produce excellence. That’s supported by the latest evidence from Florida, and a reason why we should support additional experiments in school choice.

    In fact, Congress will be voting on a substantial new scholarship program for low-income kids stuck in Washington, D.C. public schools. It’s called the D.C. Parental Choice Incentive Act (H.R. 2556). Many D.C. schools, despite funding levels well above the national average, are failing these kids, and this program would give them the opportunity to attend a private school. That’s why many D.C. parents, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, and even the liberal Washington Post all support the plan.

    Unfortunately, it’s not clear if Congress will stand up to the teachers’ unions and pass H.R. 2556. That’s why CSE is asking you to tell your elected officials that you support a parent’s right to choose their child’s school. Let them know that Congress should approve H.R. 2556 in September. In fact, you can reach your representatives directly using the CSE Member hotline: 1-888-564-6273. It’s toll-free; call today!