School Choice Shines in Florida
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is one of the oldest and largest private school choice programs in America. Started nearly 20 years ago, it now enrolls more than 100,000 students.
One of the most common concerns with private school choice programs is the impact that they might have on traditional public schools. It’s all well and good for the students who get to use a voucher/scholarship/ESA, but what about those children left behind in public schools?
Well, a team of economists from Northwestern, UC-Davis, and Emory University set out to answer that very question. Using detailed records from 1.2 million students from the 2002–03 school year to the 2016–17 school year, the researchers were able to link school attendance to standardized test scores, student behavior, and absenteeism. They used a variety of measures of competition to determine how much “pressure” the Florida school choice program put on public schools as it grew and matured. They have written up the findings in a very user-friendly way in the magazine Education Next.
What did they find? I’ll let the authors say it themselves.
We find broad and growing benefits for students at local public schools as the school-choice program scales up. In particular, students who attend neighborhood schools with higher levels of market competition have lower rates of suspensions and absences and higher test scores in reading and math. And while our analysis reveals gains for virtually all students, we find that those most positively affected are students with the greatest barriers to school success, including those with low family incomes and less-educated mothers.
You just love to see it.