Should Conservatives Support School Choice?
Recently, an opponent of school choice wrote a piece arguing that conservatives should not support school choice. His arguments were vapid and lacked evidence. I wrote a full response on the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice’s blog. Here is my response to his claim that school choice is less efficient than the current system:
When you examine the evidence it is clear that cost savings are almost universally realized through school choice programs.
A recent study by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas found that the “average public charter school student in the U.S. is receiving $3,814 less in funding than the average traditional public school student.” Despite that fact, public charter schools perform just as well as, if not better, than their traditional public school counterparts. This isn’t rocket science: less funding + equal (or better) outcomes = cost savings and improved efficiency.
The same can be said for private school choice programs. In a comprehensive study for the Friedman Foundation, Greg Forster reviewed the empirical literature on the fiscal effects of private school choice programs. All six studies on the subject found significant savings for taxpayers. In Washington, D.C., for example, it is estimated the Opportunity Scholarship Program saved taxpayers $135 million.
Of course, school choice programs were specifically designed to provide cost-savings. It is possible the savings could disappear over time as choice programs grow in popularity and become more generous. This is not new to publicly financed education systems. Traditional public schools have faced growing costs for decades. Over the past 40 years, inflation-adjusted education spending has increased by more than 180 percent. During that time, the traditional system has offered no hope of reigning in costs; school choice has. They are called education savings accounts (ESAs).
ESAs allow individuals to direct their education dollars to one or multiple schools and service providers. Unspent money remains in the account for parents to use on a host of educational expenses or to be saved for higher education purposes. That ability to save money from year to year puts a downward pressure on prices because it empowers parents to shop cost-consciously and it encourages schools to keep prices competitively low.
You can read my full response on the Friedman Foundation’s blog.