Category Christian School Comment
Title 42.9 Better Education For Less Money
Author/s Brian S. Simmons
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Special Edition: Better Education for Less Money!

On March 30, the House approved, by a vote of 225-195, bill HR 471 to reauthorize the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) for students in the District of Columbia. I travel to DC often in my role as a board member for the Council for American Private Education, and I find one of the slogans on many license plates there quite interesting: "taxation without representation." Because DC does not have a vote for a representative to either house in Congress, it is much easier for Congress to vote to approve school choice legislation, such as OSP, which includes private and religious schools.

The facts are in, and research proves conclusively that school choice and vouchers in particular are a huge success. According to a recent report titled A Win-Win Solution, 9 of 10 empirical "gold standard" studies cited in the report indicate that "vouchers improve student outcomes" (Forster 2011, 1). The study includes research on student achievement in Milwaukee, DC, Charlotte, New York, and Dayton. And 18 of 19 other studies show that not only do vouchers improve student learning but they also improve public schools, thus verifying that vouchers have been and continue to be "among the most prominent and successful reforms in the education field" (3).

 Also, one study finds that graduation rates for DC voucher students were 12 percent higher than non-OSP students (Forster 2011, 13). Finally, attendance at participating, private DC schools, according to the Cato Institute, has saved taxpayers over $17,000 per student per year (Schaeffer 2010, 8-9).

Yet in light of these overwhelmingly positive reasons to support school choice that includes private and religious schools and OSP in particular, the Obama administration issued a position statement (Executive Office of the President, March 29, 2011) opposing OSP's reauthorization:

While the Administration appreciates that H.R. 471 would provide Federal support for improving public schools in the District of Columbia (D.C.), including expanding and improving high-quality D.C. public charter schools, the Administration opposes the creation or expansion of private school voucher programs that are authorized by this bill. The Federal Government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement.... Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.

Even if one concedes the president's point on student achievement, private and religious schools achieve at least the same results for a fraction of the cost of educating students in DC public schools.

Educational choice that does not include a choice for private, religious education is no choice at all! All government money is our money. So reason says that taxpayers' money should follow students to schools of the parents' choice. No student should be forced to attend a failing public school. At this time, success in this battle will probably be won state by state. Vouchers and tax credits to families choosing private school education provide more effective education and save states money.

This legislative season, vouchers and tax credits that allow money to follow children to private and religious schools is being considered in 33 states. Please let your voice be heard! This legislation is one solution to the problem that the increases in private school tuition are outstripping parents' ability to pay it, and to the growing number of budget shortfalls and the corresponding accumulation of debt that many states are facing. Now is the time to correct these problems and pass legislation that will provide greater opportunity and freedom for all our nation's children.

What a terrific opportunity-better education for children, greater freedom for families ... and all this for less money!

 References

Forster, Greg. 2011. A win-win solution: The empirical evidence on school vouchers. Indianapolis, IN: Foundation for Educational Choice.

Schaeffer, Adam. 2010. They spend what? The real cost of public schools. Policy Analysis, no. 662. Washington, DC: Cato Institute.

Brian S. Simmons, President Association of Christian Schools International

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