Debunking School Choice Myths
MYTH: PRIVATE SCHOOLS CHOICE PROGRAMS VIOLATE THE SEPARATION BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that appropriately-designed private school choice programs are fully constitutional. And numerous state courts have upheld the constitutionality of voucher, tax credit scholarship, and ESA programs.
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAMS DRAIN MONEY FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Private school choice programs save taxpayers millions of dollars each year. When a student attends a non-public school using a voucher, ESA, or tax credit scholarship, state and federal governments usually do not have to pay a public school to provide an education for that student.
For example, the Parental Choice Programs equate to just 5% of public education funding in Wisconsin.
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE IS ANTI-PUBLIC SCHOOL
Public schools are an integral part of American society, and, in many cases, they offer a quality education. But when public schools don’t work—or don’t work for all children—parents deserve a choice, whether that be a magnet school, charter school, private school, virtual school, home school etc. All students can learn, and we believe they should all have the opportunity to do so in a safe and supportive school, chosen by their parents, that meets their individual learning needs.
MYTH: THERE IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY IN SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAMS
- Maintain accreditation
- Provide background checks and at least a bachelor’s degree for all teachers
- Maintain proper records retention
- Appropriate curriculum and a board of governance
- Meet all federal safety and anti-discrimination guidelines
- Allow students to opt out of religious programs
- Preform regular audits and other financial management requirements
Recent changes in state laws have increased what were already strict accountability requirements on choice schools. These measures include:
- Making it more challenging for schools to become a part of the choice programs to combat any fraud or abuse of funds.
- Requiring schools provide comprehensive financial audits, conducted by a certified public accountant, which are reviewed by the Department of Public Instruction annually.
- Provide the state with evidence of sound fiscal practices and financial viability.
- Require school administrators under financial training and to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education or a Wisconsin teacher or administrator license.
- Giving the Department of Public Instruction authority to deny, withhold funding from, or remove schools that do not comply or meet their requirements.
- Can have funds withheld by DPI for failure to comply
- Receive a” report card” each year from the DPI which allows for public accountability
Additionally, because these programs are voluntary, parents can remove their child from the school if they feel the educational experience is inadequate.
MYTH: CHOICE SCHOOLS DISCRIMINATE AGAINST STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
Schools participating in choice programs must comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
Any student that meets the eligibility requirement can apply to receive a voucher and a school must admit the student if they have a declared seat.
If there are more applications than seats, a blide lottery must be done.
By law, schools can NOT pick and choose their students. (Wis. Stat. 119.23(3)(a))
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE HURTS TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Studies consistently demonstrate that public school’s benefit from the existence of voucher and scholarship tax credit programs. Twenty-one empirical studies examine private school choice programs’ impact on academic outcomes for nonparticipating students in nearby public schools. Of those studies, 20 found that private school choice improved the performance of nearby public schools; one found no significant effects of this competition.
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAMS INCREASE RACIAL SEGREGATION AMONG SCHOOLS
No reputable study shows that private school choice increases racial segregation. In fact, of the 10 studies using valid empirical methods to examine school choice and racial segregation, nine found that school choice creates more racially integrated classrooms; one found no significant effect on integration.
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE ONLY HELPS STUDENTS IN URBAN AREAS
Public and private school choice, including online education and course choice, are critically important to increasing education options for rural and suburban students. Students outside of major urban districts face real challenges due to population sparsity and school size, limiting many families’ high-quality educational options. More rural and suburban policymakers are embracing school choice to bring new and better opportunities to their constituents.
MYTH: SCHOOL CHOICE DOESN’T HELP THOSE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Special needs scholarship programs, like the one in Wisconsin, is explicitly designed to help parents of special needs students improve the educational experience of their child.