Support for School Choice

The proponents of this idea argue that if parents were given a choice about where public funding should go, they would pick the better schools and the under-performing schools would have to improve or lose their funding. The main premise of school choice proponents’ arguments is that the student, not the school should be the focus of reform. Some school choice proponents hold that if a school is failing the student, it should be replaced, not the other way around.

Another argument is based on cost-effectiveness. The Cato Institute cites public statistics for the U.S. costs and quality of education that show privately-run education usually costs between one quarter and one half of publicly-run education while giving superior outcomes. A voucher or tax credit of about $5,000 would fully cover tuition for 79% of private schools. However, according to the Census Bureau, New Jersey schools spend the most per student at almost US$13,000 per enrollee each year, with $8,287 being the national average. Some school choice advocates point to Arizona and Washington states as good examples of how private education costs less for a better product. Proponents also often point to the fact that public schools have more money per student than the vast majority of private schools and yet still consistently fail to teach basic reading and math skills, despite a large funding advantage when compared to private schools, spending hovering around $10,000 per student and yearly funding increases.

In areas with these expenditures, many publicly-run schools are unaccredited, while privately-run schools are fully accredited in order to retain students and avoid regulatory difficulties. In many large publicly-run school districts, administrators do not publicize accreditation for this reason.

Others argue that since children from impoverished families almost exclusively attend public schools, a voucher system would allow these students to opt out of bad schools and acquire a better education, thereby granting the decision-making power to students and their parents, not school administrators. Supporters say this would level the playing field allowing the poor to have similar opportunities to attend good schools as the middle classes instead of the current two-tiered system which educates the white middle classes, but not minorities in the lower classes.

Due to the expanded market and subsequent demand for privately-run schooling, school choice proponents argue that a myriad of schools of varying selectivity and philosophies would arise to meet this demand, providing greater choice than the publicly-run school system. The choice of schools would be analogous to the choice of food products in a supermarket, only limited by physical constraints and not government budgets. Supporters also argue that having a greater number of schools from which students can choose would reduce overcrowding and allow students to attend schools that best meet their learning styles and needs.

Furthermore, the decentralization or localization of power endemic to privately-run schooling would facilitate greater parent teacher interaction, as the teachers would be accountable to parents, not to a distant city or state board. A close-knit community of students, parents, and faculty unified by a common ideal would promote involvement among the relevant parties. Effectively, proponents of school choice argue, vouchers would confer the benefits of privately-run schooling on a wide swath of the population while lessening, or even negating the cost.

Many supporters often say that the need is urgent and that we should not wait for the public schools to continue attempting to fix the problem as we sacrifice another generation of minority and poor students. They often point out that the current system has brought us the current failure and claim that new methods are needed to fix it.