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Gazette Premium Content Evidence confirms the positive effects of school choice learning

Andrea Van Nort Updated: October 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

School vouchers generate better education for all, whether in public or private schools. On one hand, personal commitment to the choices one makes is one result of freedom. On the other, because of the intrinsic incentive for excellence within the very idea of school vouchers, where different schools compete for the privilege of teaching a child, even public school systems benefit. Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research has shown just that: Florida's public schools gained from competition with neighboring private schools, thanks to the state's voucher system.

Though critical thinking improvements between choice and non-choice students have yet to show measurable differences, the confirmed positive effects of providing choice learning conditions are clear. Interestingly, those who have benefited the most, according to more conclusive studies, are minority and low-income students (Center for Education Policy). Indeed, greater access to vouchers enhances diversity in private schools and bridges socio-economically derived learning gaps.

Those opposed to vouchers worry that the system blurs the line between church and state, as some parents will use the vouchers to send their children to religious schools. However, the Supreme Court deemed school voucher programs constitutional as long as they are "religion-neutral," that is, any school, religious or otherwise, can participate. Voucher systems leave individuals free to choose. When I taught in France, I remember that many Muslim families sent their children to Catholic schools, as they felt that their children were safer and receiving a better education. To my mind, the religious aspect is less important than the structure and rigor offered in a private-school setting.

Perhaps not all families can benefit from vouchers, due to special circumstances. Yet, why limit access to, in many cases, a better education simply because some cannot take advantage of that possibility? The fact is that school voucher programs open up access to a private education, when many families wouldn't otherwise have that opportunity. Decidedly, those who do make the most of school vouchers for their children, particularly those from minority or low-income families, enter an environment where academics are central and the prospect of success more promising.

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Andrea Van Nort, Ph.D., has more than 20 years of classroom experience, in France and now at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Response:

Since studies show that vouchers do make a difference for minority and low-income students and their families, an effort to inform any reticent Coloradan voters is necessary. Clearly, U.S. Supreme Court decisions overrule state or local efforts and nullify district-level efforts to block these students in need; that's why we need a fresh, local review of the subject. Comparing these schools' academic and remediation success with that of public schools, as well as the empirically-proven benefits of this system in Philadelphia and New York (Chingos and Peterson 2012), I am surprised to find educators who don't readily embrace school vouchers.

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