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THE BOOK OF EDUCATION
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_choice

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

School choice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 

School choice describes programs that allow students to choose to attend any of various participating private and public schools, usually based on a system of vouchers, tax credits, or scholarships. These programs are generally intended to give parents more input in which primary and secondary schools their children attend. In the United States, school choice sometimes refers to the social movement instrumental in promoting these programs. The goal of school choice is to create competition between schools for education dollars, which may give public schools an incentive to perform better than without competition. However, opponents have argued that the free-market theory does not work in the educational realm, and that allowing school choice will hurt more students than it helps [1].

Various school choice advocacy groups differ in the extent to which they support privatization. Some do not advocate privatization at all, wishing only to allow parents greater choice among different public schools. Others seek to grant parents the option of either spending vouchers at privately run schools, or of obtaining tax credits for the same. Along these lines, proponents argue that funding should be tied to the student, not the district, and the student should be able to use the education voucher at any school.

Support

A less biased definition might be: School choice - program which permits the parents of students to choose among participating private, public and charter schools, based on a system of tax credits, vouchers, or scholarships. The goal of school choice is to create competition between schools for education dollars, thereby giving schools an incentive to perform better. This enables parents to choose, for example, a school that provides a Christian or Biblically based worldview in their children's instruction; stronger discipline; better foundational skills including reading, writing, mathematics, and science; everyday skills from handling money to farming, or other desirable foci, which the parent perceives as important, but neglected.

Proponents argue that if parents were given a choice where public funding should go, they would pick the better schools and under-performing schools would have to improve or lose funding. The main premise of school choice proponents’ arguments is that 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.

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 [2]. A voucher or tax credit of about $5,000 would fully cover tuition for 79% of private schools [3]. 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 [4]. Some school choice advocates point to Arizona and Washington state as good examples of how private education costs less for a better product [5] [6]. 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 [7] [8] [9] [10].

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 by broadening opportunities for low-income students to attend as good of schools as the middle classes instead of the current two-tiered system which educates the middle and upper classes, but not the lower classes, particularly minorities. [11].

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.

Criticism

Opponents argue that many parents in impoverished areas might be unable to make informed decisions, and that certain types of parents are more likely to flee neighborhood schools, reinforcing social-class inequality. [12]

School choice in the form of vouchers could result in nothing more than a cash-handout for many middle-class and wealthy families already sending their kids to private schools, with poorer families either unable to secure enrollment or unable to cover costs in addition to the vouchers. [13]

Students who are unable, because of their parents' educational level or the lack of reliable transportation, to leave their local schools will be hurt as additional funding is cut from their schools. [14]

Studies by the Indiana Center for Evaluation have shown that the use of vouchers does not improve student test scores. [15]

When parents flee troubled schools under NCLB's School Choice option, the district loses not only the per-pupil funding, but must provide transportation to the new school. This causes a funding drain that will seriously impact the students left in the school. [16]

Response

Supporters of school choice say that it is unlikely that better schools would become overcrowded since it is the publicly run schools which are currently the sole providers of education to the poor. Choice, they say, would mean that there would be reduced overcrowding since students would be spread out over the schools that best meet their learning styles and needs.

Supporters often say that critics who fear a two-tiered system due to the languishing of some students are hypocritical, since they tend to prefer the current system, which supporters say forces all students to languish, regardless of parental concern.

Supporters of school choice say that most schools have transportation available and if they do not, the parent is left in the same situation as before—without a choice. The difference, they say is the problem of a lack of choice after the implementation of school choice programs (a lack of transportation) is much more easily fixed than the current problem (being trapped in a failing school).

Some school choice proponents question the motives of those who put forth arguments that voters are misled for the benefit of a small handful of rich business merchants, since it seems to focus on not helping a certain class of people, instead of focusing on how best to educate children.

Supporters of school choice would say that the reason why the public schools were created in the first place is quite simple: not everyone could afford private schools. School choice would fix this problem.

Supporters say that while there are few private schools for the urban poor, this would be fixed when the means to attend private school are provided to the poor. Many say it is obvious that one would not open a private school targeted to students whose parents cannot afford such a school. Providing the financial means to these parents would increase the proliferation of private schools that are not targeted solely at the white middle and upper classes, which are currently the only classes that can afford private schooling. Supporters also contend that this argument and many others against school choice is not saying school choice won't help solve the problem, but merely that it won't be perfect. Supporters say that legislation rarely if ever is perfect. The question, they say, is whether it is better than the alternative.

Supporters say that no school would ever go bankrupt if they are providing a good education and say that the schools most likely to go bankrupt are the failing public schools. This may explain, supporters often reason, why teachers' unions generally oppose school choice.

Alternatives

Many critics propose a different solution that does not take away money or force schools to struggle against each other. They say if incentive is what is needed, it already exists: the school board is elected by direct popular vote. They say that instead of government forcing school choice, citizens and parents need to become more aware of who runs the schools, and for laws to help improve that awareness. Any head of the school board who values their position will likely do everything possible to ensure the school runs better, if citizens are more active in deciding who stays or goes. Supporters of school choice sometimes say that even if the school board were perfect, one school, generally, cannot educate the myriad of different students any more than one company could meet the needs of all consumers. Supporters also say that this "solution" has always existed, yet has failed to fix America's failing schools. This, they say, proves that there needs to be another solution.

International overview

France

The French government subsidizes most private primary and secondary schools, including those affiliated with religious denominations, under contracts stipulating that education must follow the same curriculum as public schools and that schools cannot discriminate on grounds of religion or force pupils to attend religion classes.

This system of école libre (Free Schooling) is mostly used not for religious reasons, but for practical reasons (private schools may offer more services, such as after-class tutoring) as well as the desire of parents living in disenfranchised areas to send their children away from the local schools, where they perceive that the youth are too prone to delinquence or have too many difficulties keeping up with schooling requirements that the educational content is bound to suffer. The threatened repealing of that status in the 1980s triggered mass street demonstrations in favor of the status.

Canada

Ontario is the only large province in Canada with no school choice programs. In 2003, the Conservative government introduced a tax credit worth up to 50% of tuition at any independent school in Ontario. However, the tax credit was retroactively canceled by the subsequent Liberal government. Currently there are over 800 independent schools in Ontario. The only school choice program available to parents who wish to send their children to an independent school is a privately funded program called Children First, a program of The Fraser Institute.

Chile

In Chile, there is an extensive voucher system in which the state pays private and municipal schools directly, based on average attendance (90% of the country students utilize such a system). The result has been a steady increase in the number and recruitment of private schools that show consistently better results in standardized testing than municipal schools. The reduction of students in municipal schools has gone from 78% of all students in 1981, to 57% in 1990, and to less than 50% in 2005.

Regarding vouchers in Chile, researchers (Dr. Martin Carnoy of Stanford, Patrick J. McEwan among others) have found that when controls for the student's background (parental income and education) are introduced, the difference in performance between public and private subsectors is not significant. Alejandra Mizala (University of Chile) and Pilar Romaguera (University of Chile) have found that there is greater variation within each subsector than between the two.

United States

School choice in America comes in a few different forms. The different options could be put into these categories: vouchers, tax credits, charter schools, magnet schools and even home schooling.

Vouchers
Main article: Education voucher

When the government pays tuition to a private school on behalf of the parents, this is usually referred to as a voucher. Vouchers currently exist in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida, and, most recently, Utah, Colorado, and the District of Columbia[17]. The largest and oldest Voucher program is in Milwaukee. Started in 1990, and expanded in 1995, it currently allows no more that 15% the district's public school enrollment to use vouchers. As of 2005 over 14,000 students use vouchers and they are nearing the 15% cap [18]. School vouchers are legally controversial in some states; in 2005 the Florida Supreme Court found that school vouchers were illegal under the Florida Constitution.

In the U.S., the legal and moral precedents for vouchers may have been set by the G.I. bill, which includes a voucher program for university-level education of veterans. The G.I. bill permits veterans to take their educational benefits at religious schools, an extremely divisive issue when applied to primary and secondary schools.

In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), the Supreme Court of the United States held that school vouchers could be used to pay for education in sectarian schools without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. As a result, states are basically free to enact voucher programs that provide funding for any school of the parent's choosing.

The Court has not decided, however, whether states can provide vouchers for secular schools only, excluding sectarian schools. Proponents of funding for parochial schools argue that such an exclusion would violate the free exercise clause. However, in Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), the Court held that states could exclude majors in "devotional theology" from an otherwise generally available college scholarship. The Court has not indicated, however, whether this holding extends to the public school context, and it may well be limited to the context of individuals training to enter the ministry.

Tuition tax credits

A tuition tax credit is similar to most other familiar tax credits. Certain states allow individuals and/or businesses to deduct a certain amount of their income taxes to donate to education. Depending on the program, these donations can either go to a public school or to a School Tuition Organization (STO), or both. The donations that go to public schools are often used to help pay for after-school programs, schools trips, or school supplies. The donations that go to School Tuition Organizations are used by the STO to create scholarships that are then given to students. These programs currently exist in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania[19].

Arizona has probably the most well known and fastest growing tax credit program. In the Arizona School Tuition Organization Tax Credit program individuals can deduct up to $500 and couples filing joint returns can deduct up to $625. About 20,000 children received scholarships in the 2003-2004 school year. And, since the program has started in 1998, over 77,000 scholarships have been granted [20] [21].

Charter schools
Main article: Charter school

Charter schools are public schools with more relaxed rules and regulations. These relaxed rules tend to deal with things like Teacher Union contracts and state curriculum. The majority of states (and the District of Columbia) have Charter School laws. Minnesota was the first state to have a charter school law and the first charter school in the United States, City Academy, opened in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1992 [22].

Dayton, Ohio has between 22-26% of all children in Charter Schools[23] [24]. This is the highest percentage in the nation. Other hotbeds for Charter Schools are Kansas City (24%), Washington, D.C. (20-24%) and the State of Arizona[25]. Almost 1 in 4 public schools are Charter Schools in Arizona and about 8% of total enrollment.

Charter Schools can also come in the form of Cyber Charters. Cyber charter schools deliver the majority of their instruction over the internet instead of in a school building. And, like charter schools, they are public schools, but free of many of the rules and regulations that public schools must follow.

Magnet schools
Main article: Magnet school

Magnet schools are public schools that often have a specialized function like science, technology or art. These magnet schools, unlike charter schools, are not open to all children. Much like many private schools, the students must test into the school.

Home schooling
Main article: Homeschooling

When a child is educated at home, or is having his education instructed or directed primarily by a parent, then this is usually referred to as Home Education or Home Schooling. Home Education has obviously been around for a very long time, but in the last 20 years the number of children being educated at home has grown tremendously. The laws relevant to Home Education differ throughout the country. In some states the parent simply needs to notify the state that the child will be educated at home. In other states the parents are not free to educate at home unless at least one parent is a certified teacher and yearly progress reports are reviewed by the state. According to the Federal Government, about 1.1 million children were Home Educated in 2003.[26]

See also

  • Alternative school
  • Charter school
  • Magnet school
  • Home schooling
  • Intra-district School Choice: Calfee School Guide

External links

  • School Choice: Doing it the Right Way, a report from the Brookings Institution

In favor of school choice

  • A Quick Guide to the Scholarly Literature on School Choice, The Cato Institute
  • Caroline Hoxby, Harvard University
  • TheVanguard.Org School Choice Center
  • The ABCs of School Choice (pdf), The Friedman Foundation
  • Frequently Asked Questions, School Choice Indiana
  • School Reform News, Heartland Institute
  • "How Lack of Choice Cheats Our Kids Out of a Good Education", John Stossel's 'Stupid in America'

Opposed to school choice

  • Public Education, People for the American Way
  • Public School Choice, National PTA
  • Public School Choice & Charters, Progressive Policy Institute
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_choice"