January 13, 2016

Publisher Steve Forbes recounts how Henry Ford told customers they could have any color of car they wanted as long as it was black. Along came Alfred Sloan producing cars in multiple colors and GM eclipsed Ford in sales. Consumers had spoken.

Today, whether it’s Verizon against Sprint against AT&T and T-Mobile, Amazon against Wal-Mart or a gas war on a corner, competition helps consumers. Competition is everywhere but somehow it’s missing in public education.

The opponents of giving parents a choice in where they can send their children to school claim giving families a private school option will destroy public schools. The bureaucrats running the system lack confidence in their own system’s ability to compete for students.

But the school choice haters are wrong on the facts. Research shows the competition of school choice makes public schools better.

Consider this from the Friedman Foundation.

“There have been 23 empirical studies investigating the impact of school choice laws on the students at district schools. Of those, 22 found that the performance of students at district schools improved after a school choice law was enacted. One study found no statistically significant difference and none found any harm.”

The facts also show school choice improves student achievement.

“The conclusion of 13 out of 14 randomized controlled trials—the gold standard for social science research—is that school choice programs raise participating students’ academic performance, and increase their likelihood of graduating high school and enrolling in and graduating from college. One study found no statistically significant difference and none found any harm.It should come as no surprise such families are more satisfied when they can choose the options that work best for them.”

The purpose of public education should be about giving every child the best opportunity for success. The conservative majority in the Legislature proved they get it when they passed Opportunity Scholarships, empowering low income families with school choice.

Whatever political price there is for shaking up the system has already been paid. In the short session, conservatives should dramatically expand school choice. It’s good policy and good politics.

Competition makes schools better.