Among those activities will be a week-long series of Bluegrass Institute policy blogs, op-eds and media appearances centering on the theme: Kentucky needs school choice because it works to provide more options for families and opportunities for children.
It’s National School Choice Week, which recognizes the importance and celebrating the effectiveness of empowering parents and guardians with making all-important decisions regarding where and how their children are educated.
Two school choice rallies in Kentucky – on Tuesday at the Ballard Convention Center in Madisonville at 10:30 a.m. and on Thursday at 10 a.m. between the Capitol and Annex in Frankfort – will be among the 40,000 NCSW events and activities occurring nationwide.
Research says: the longer they stay, the better they perform!
It wasn’t that long ago that opponents of educational freedom hid behind claims such as “there’s just not enough credible research out there” in order to deny Kentucky parents the ability to replace public education bureaucrats as the decision-makes regarding where their children attend school and how they’re educated.
However, as the number of states passing school-choice policies grows, more families are taking advantage of the options provided by the primary types of school-choice programs, including charter schools and other various public options, along with scholarship tax credits, education savings accounts and vouchers.
This means momentum for the school-choice movement for sure. The longer these programs operate the higher the mountain of evidence for researchers to work with regarding how various policies are working
A meta-analysis of the international gold-standard research on school-choice programs by University of Arkansas researchers concludes that, on average, school choice is having a statistically significant positive impact on students’ math and reading performance, the magnitude of which increases the longer those students remain in the traditional public, charter, private or online school of their family’s choosing.
Benefits not just for students in choice schools
Plus, a growing body of research shows that the positive impact of school choice isn’t limited just to students attending choice schools. It also speaks to the positive impact choice programs have even on students who don’t participate and instead remain in schools to which they’ve been assigned.
A significant majority of high-quality studies find that more competition positively impacts a school district’s academic performance.
Cato policy analyst Jason Bedrick in writing about this review of the research concludes that “the evidence suggests that when district schools know that their students have other options, they take steps to improve.”
That, in fact, may be the greatest benefit that school choice could offer Kentucky – applying the kind of appropriate pressure needed to up everyone’s game. After all, even if Kentucky had the best choice program with the largest number of participants in the country, reality suggests that probably no more than 10 percent of all Kentucky public school students would participate.
But the positive collateral effect of applying the pressures of competition not only will break up the one remaining monopoly in Kentucky’s society – public education – producing results that benefit all children.
“Monopolists are slow to change while organizations operating in a competitive environment must learn to adapt or they will perish,” Bedrick adds.
Kentucky’s educational system offers the poster child for the “slow to change” part.
Despite years of polling showing parents want the option of choosing a better – or more appropriate school – for their children, Kentucky continues to drag its feet.
Since passing arguably the nation’s weakest charter school bill during the 2017 legislative session, the General Assembly has failed to provide funding for charters, which are innovative public schools of choice that are managed differently than their traditional counterparts.
Choice in other states: 26 have private choice programs
Meanwhile 26 other states and the left-leaning District of Columbia not only have charter schools and are funding them, but have expanded into offering private choice programs benefiting more than a half-million mostly minority students from low-income homes whose families don’t have the means to write big tuition checks.
Eighteen of those states have scholarship tax credit programs, which give families greater access to private schools through scholarships which are funded by businesses and individuals who donate to nonprofit organizations which then distribute scholarships to students who qualify according to their state’s laws.
The National School Choice Week, which is a fine organization, is calling for happy celebrations this week. For states like Indiana, where school-choice policies have become so effective that even traditional public schools have been forced to up their game and engage in marketing campaigns to attract Hoosier students and parents – who now have more choices than ever – a celebration is definitely appropriate.
But how can we celebrate choice here in Kentucky knowing that tens of thousands of our commonwealth’s children will find themselves in a failing school even during this week applauding educational liberty because they and their parents don’t have any?