Today marks the fifth day of National School Choice Week, an annual celebration of educational freedom. For most of American history, parents had little choice in where to send their child for primary and secondary school. Particularly during the 20th century, students were assigned a public school based solely on their zip code. Unsurprisingly, this led to massive inequalities in educational outcomes, with poor students attending low-quality schools and vice versa for the rich.
That all changed around the turn of the century, when educational options like charter schools and voucher programs started to spring up. Today, 28 states and the District of Columbia offer some sort of school choice program, giving parents and children more options than a government assignment.
Of course, school choice is not without its critics. Public school interests like to question whether charter schools and voucher programs truly improve educational outcomes. What they ignore, however, is the best evidence.
Some studies certainly find negative effects from school choice. However, not all studies are created equal. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice explains:
Studies conducted since the late 1990s convincingly show that school choice is an effective intervention and public policy for boosting student achievement.
Twelve studies using a method called random assignment, the gold standard in the social sciences, have found statistically significant gains in academic achievement from school vouchers. No such study has ever found negative effects. One study’s findings were inconclusive.
The evidence aside, the most powerful case for school choice is the moral one. In an age of infinite choices, why are we still relying on a one-size-fits-all model for education? Why should poor students have no opportunity to escape the failure and danger of their geographically assigned public schools? Why shouldn’t parents have choice?
Those questions are becoming increasingly difficult to answer, which is why National School Choice Week is experiencing its biggest year to date with 16,000+ events nationwide. Let’s hope, for the sake of America’s future, that this growth continues.