Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does school choice help students do better in school?

A. Yes!

Seven high quality studies (using random assignment) show that equal opportunity scholarships have improved academic achievement in the areas where school choice is an option. No study has ever found that these scholarships hurt academic achievement.

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Q. Does school choice make public schools better?

A. A large body of studies shows that competition from school choice improves public schools.

If all schools compete for students, public schools will not be able to take students for granted, as they do now; they will have to improve to prevent students from walking out the door. Not one empirical study has ever found that school choice hurts public school outcomes; they have only showed improvement.

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Q. Does school choice drain resources from public schools?

A. Absolutely Not!

School choice programs do not drain money from public schools. Actually, they leave more money behind to educate fewer students. No state or city with school choice has seen its public school budgets go down. The claim that choice drains money may sound plausible; schools are funded on a per-student basis, so fewer students means less money. But, a growing body of research finds exactly the opposite: school choice programs actually improve public school financing. School choice gives the public school system more money to educate each student. According to Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, across the nation:

  • The average amount public schools spend per student = $10,000
  • The average amount private schools spend per student = $5,000
*This is the fundamental reason school choice saves money- private schools do a better job at about half the cost.

According to Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, a landmark study, released May 9, 2007, found that school choice programs throughout the country generated nearly $444 million in net savings to state and local budgets from 1990 to 2006.

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Q. Are private schools that participate in school choice programs held accountable?

A. Not only are private schools accountable for the job they do, they are much more accountable than public schools are.

Private schools are primarily accountable to parents, who can pull their children out of a school that fails to serve them. That’s a freedom that parents stuck in the public school monopoly don’t have. If a public school fails to perform, parents have no way to hold it accountable.

Private schools are accountable to both parents (through choice) and the public (through existing accountability rules). Private schools in every state comply with a vast array of health and safety regulations, anti-discrimination laws and rules covering the minimum amount of school days. In addition, most private schools already undertake yearly financial audits and evaluate their children using nationally recognized tests, for the simple reason that parents expect and demand it. Piling on burdensome regulations in the name of accountability would only hamper their ability to teach children better. One of the most important reasons private schools do a better job than public schools is that they are free form these restrictions. They can be more creative in the classroom and are more open to trying different approaches to help children learn.

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Q.Will school choice turn a private school into an over-regulated public school?

A. Not if we are vigilant!

Attempts to transform private schools into over-regulated public schools through school choice programs have failed, and with vigilance we can continue to see to it that they fail.

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Q. Does the public really want school choice?

A. Absolutely!

A majority of the American public supports school choice. Most important, parents of all backgrounds support school choice, because they know what is best for their children.

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Q. Does a wide spectrum of Americans want school choice?

A. Yes, contrary to the myth propagated by teachers’ unions, school choice has a broad base of support across all points on the political spectrum and among people of all backgrounds.

Although school choice was once considered a policy pushed solely by conservatives, many Democratic leaders have come forth in support of educational options as well including Joe Lieberman and Diane Feinstein.

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Q. Is school choice constitutional?

A. If the program is well designed, yes!

This question was answered resoundingly in 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision upholding the constitutionality of Cleveland’s voucher program. Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court strongly favor school choice. Because parents make a truly independent choice of where to send their children to school, there is no violation of the U.S. Constitution if they freely chose religious schools.

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Q. Does school choice help special education students?

A. Definitely! Evidence shows that disabled students using school choice are getting better services.

School choice for special education allows parents to find a school that matches their children’s individual needs.

A 2003 Manhattan Institute study of the McKay program in Florida, which is used by more than 15,000 of the state’s special-education students, found that 93 percent of McKay participants are satisfied with their McKay schools, while only 33 percent were similarly satisfied with their public schools.

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Q. Does school choice really lead to more integrated schools?

A. Contrary to the claims of opponents, school choice leads to more integrated schools.

Research shows that children using school choice attend more integrated schools than their public school counterparts.

Our nation’s public schools are heavily segregated. According to a Harvard University study, “more than 70 percent of the nation’s black students now attend predominately minority public schools.” Public schools are so segregated primarily because of residential segregation. Attendance at public schools are determined by where people live, which guarantees that segregation in housing patterns will always be reproduced in public schools. Private schools, on the other hand, can draw students from anywhere.

*Source: The ABC’s of School Choice 2006-2007 Edition, the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.

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