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One of the few public policies that unites people from across the political spectrum is school choice—the ability of parents to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs. So, why isn’t it the norm? Mandy Drogin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains what the obstacles are and how we might overcome them.
According to a 2022 Real Clear Politics Poll, 72% of Americans support school choice—the ability of parents to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs.
82% of Republicans…
68% of Democrats…
And 67% of Independents.
Given how divided Americans are over almost everything, that’s about as bipartisan as it gets. And given that politicians read polls, school choice should be a slam dunk, right?
Well, let’s take a look at Texas.
You can’t get much more conservative than the Lone Star state. So, you’d think it would have a very robust school choice program.
But you’d be wrong.
In Texas, public education doesn’t look all that different from progressive California or New York.
And it shares equally embarrassing educational test results.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 75% of Texas eighth graders are not proficient in reading and math. The state’s own assessments are just as grim; 60% of students cannot do math at grade level, and nearly 50% cannot read at grade level.
This is a Texas-sized problem.
And it needs a Texas-sized solution.
That solution is school choice.
So, what’s the problem? Why isn’t it a slam dunk? Why is a state that has led on such cutting-edge initiatives as medical liability and tort reform fallen behind on a critical issue like education?
Here’s what those who oppose school choice will tell you: if you offer parents choice, the public schools will lose funding; money needed for public schools which must accept all students will be siphoned off to competing charter schools or private schools or someplace else.
But this concern is misplaced.
In states where school choice already has a long history, most parents do not leave their local school for another school.
Why aren’t they heading for exits?
Here’s where it gets interesting and instructive. In states where parents have choice, public schools improve.
When Florida first implemented their school choice program in 2002, they were ranked #33 in the nation for educating low-income students. By 2019 they had risen to #1 in the nation.
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