School Choice: The Basics

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Many children across Mississippi are shifting to “back-to-school” mode this week. Unfortunately, many children are going back to school and failing to get the solid education which will help them succeed in life. In order to remedy this problem, many parents and politicians often lobby for more “school choice.”
Many children across Mississippi are shifting to “back-to-school” mode this week. Unfortunately, many children are going back to school and failing to get the solid education which will help them succeed in life. In order to remedy this problem, many parents and politicians often lobby for more “school choice.”

School choice consists of many different options, the most common being vouchers, tax credits, and charters.

Voucher programs enable “education dollars [to] ‘follow the child'” while also allowing “parents [to] select private schools and receive state-funded scholarships to pay tuition.”

Proponents of vouchers believe they give children – especially those from lower incomes – the freedom to leave ill-performing schools for better ones. Data suggests that vouchers promote academic progress and greater college enrollment. Opponents, however, argue that vouchers cost more money, fail to demonstrate better academic results, and bring more government regulation into private schools.

Tax credits are a second form of school choice. Similar to school vouchers, education tax credits either allow parents to take a tax deduction for money spent on education expenses, or allow businesses to receive tax credits for the scholarships they give for children to attend a school of their choice.

Education tax credits seem to avoid some of the pitfalls of vouchers mentioned earlier. On the other hand, those opposed to education tax credits believe that they offer “no proven educational benefits” and merely take money away from underfunded public schools.

Charter schools are another common form of school choice. They are publicly-funded schools that sign a contract, or “charter,” with either a public or private authorizer.

Charter school supporters suggest that the competition they provide improves academic standards in both charters and regular public schools. Yet, a variety of other studies suggest that charters more often than not exhibit poor performance and promote segregation.

The data surrounding school choice outcomes is mixed, but many studies show that it increases parental satisfaction and student achievement gains. Additional evidence suggests that children involved in school choice programs were less likely to be imprisoned and more likely to have a higher income as adults. Despite fears to the contrary, school choice programs have also been found to be cost-saving for public schools.

Which kind of educational choice would you like for your child?

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