Saturday, August 27, 2011
Journal & Courier
Starting this fall, Indiana families that qualify will be able to receive a scholarship to attend an approved private school.
The driving force behind the program is simple: Every child has the right to receive an effective education that motivates and challenges him or her to succeed in life. Whether that education is provided in a public, charter or private school should be up to parents.
Already, more than 1,000 parents and 200 Indiana private schools, including seven from the Lafayette area, have chosen to participate in the program. That's more than one-quarter of all private schools in the state. If private school choice undermines public education and is as undesirable as opponents claim, then why are so many parents and schools participating in such a short time span?
Every study on vouchers finds that participating parents are more satisfied with their children's education and more involved in their children's schools. Because a child's home plays such a pivotal role in his or her education, the fact that vouchers encourage greater parental involvement is encouraging.
Research into the savings generated by voucher programs is just as compelling. Despite the rhetoric, voucher programs save states millions of dollars that they can use to reinvest in public schools. One study of Milwaukee's voucher program, for example, found that school choice saved Wisconsin $46.7 million in 2010.
Of the 22 studies examining how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools, 21 concluded that vouchers improved public schools, and one found no visible impact.
We also know that, despite what opponents say, students who use vouchers graduate at higher rates and do better, albeit marginally, on standardized tests than their public school peers.
Of the 10 "random assignment" studies, the "gold standard" of social science research, conducted on voucher participants, nine found that vouchers improve student outcomes. Six found that all students improve, and three found that some students improved while some did not. One study reported no visible impact, and no study has ever showed that vouchers have a negative impact on test scores.
Opponents of school choice have argued that vouchers don't work because test score results for voucher students are similar to public school students and because vouchers undermine our commitment to public education.
The reality is very different.
Taken as a whole, the overall benefits provided by voucher programs are large. Children graduate at higher rates. Public schools improve. Parents are more involved. The state saves millions of dollars.
I call that a solid commitment to public education and to the parents and students it's supposed to serve.
Robert Enlow is president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.