April 5, 2017

We seriously doubt much is said about it in school today, but great military leaders turned stalemate with bold action. Washington crossing the Delaware. Grant running the guns at Vicksburg. MacArthur at Inchon.

Today, education is stalemated. Legislators want reform. Bureaucrats don’t and they can always outlast a politician. So why not go bold by going big on school choice?

Choice bypasses the bureaucrats. And research shows competition among schools improves a child’s chance for success.

The Wall Street Journal on April 2 said, ”More than 400,000 students in 30 states and Washington, D.C. participate in private-school choice programs whose designs and funding sources vary. Over the last two decades, dozens of studies have sought to measure these programs’ impact on student growth. Those with the most rigorous methodologies have produced positive findings.

A meta-analysis last year by the Friedman Foundation found that 14 of 18 empirical studies analyzing programs in which students were chosen at random by lottery found positive academic outcomes.

The study (Fordham Institute) did find that vouchers “improved the achievement of the public-school students who were eligible for a voucher but did not use it.” These students tended to be more economically disadvantaged and lower-achieving than those who used vouchers. It appears vouchers impelled low-performing public schools to improve to avoid losing students.

This conclusion is bolstered by the Friedman meta-analysis, which demonstrated positive effects in 31 of 33 studies evaluating the impact of vouchers on public schools. An analysis of Louisiana’s program last year found that student performance increased “in the public schools exposed to the threat of competition, with effect sizes growing in magnitude as the competitive threat looms larger.”

With this kind of research on our side, why are we timid? Raise income eligibility so more families can choose. Make opportunity scholarship schools and charters eligible for school bond issue funding. Advertise opportunity scholarships.

Reformers won’t be around forever. Like Washington crossing the Delaware, act boldly now.