Fact Check:Let's dispel some myths about School Choice in Wisconsin
Myth: Private school choice drains funds from public schools.
Reality: Studies have consistently demonstrated that public schools are helped by the existence of school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs. As a result of private school choice programs, public school districts retain a portion of the funding for each child who leaves the public system. In effect, districts still retain a portion of a child’s per-pupil funding, even though they don’t have to educate the student. As a public policy matter, education reformers believe public money should follow children to schools of their parents’ choice.
Myth: Private school choice violates the separation between church and state.
Reality: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that appropriately-designed private school choice programs are fully Constitutional. In addition, numerous state courts have upheld the constitutionality of voucher, scholarship tax credit and education savings account programs.
Myth: Vouchers are just a Republican, right-wing issue.
Reality: Support for all forms of school choice is a bipartisan issue. Democratic U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Cory Booker cosponsored reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Scores of Democratic state legislators have sponsored, cosponsored, and voted for the 48 private school choice programs in 23 states and D.C. Many prominent politicians who oppose private school choice, including President Obama, also exercise their own choice by sending their children to private schools.
Myth: The public doesn’t support private school choice.
Reality: The most recent national poll conducted by Democratic polling firm Beck Research for the American Federation for Children found 70 percent of voters support school choice, and 65 percent support opportunity scholarships otherwise known as school vouchers. Support for all educational choice options also enjoys overwhelming support among Hispanic, African-American, and millennial voters.
Myth: Private schools discriminate.
Reality: Most private school choice programs have strong language prohibiting discrimination. The most common language used prohibits discrimination based upon race, color or national origin and cites federal law 42 USC s2000d. Some states have adopted even stricter non-discrimination language.
Myth: Students don’t achieve or attain more because of private school choice.
Reality: Fifteen empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these studies, 11 report positive test score effects among their primary findings. Two studies found no significant effects, and two found negative impact in the early years of study.
Myth: There is no accountability in school choice programs.
Reality: All private school choice programs have some level of administrative and financial accountability, and many have academic accountability. The American Federation for Children fully supports common sense accountability provisions, including testing and reporting, in state laws. Most private schools themselves have rigorous evaluation criteria.
Myth: The problem with private school choice is that schools won’t be required to accept children.
Reality: The people who run private schools want to help children, especially disadvantaged children and children with disabilities. Many private schools are specifically developed to help children and families who are most in need.
Myth: School choice means abandoning public schools.
Reality: Public schools are and will remain 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 your child—parents deserve a choice. In reality, school choice does not always mean that people have to choose private or religious schools. The American Federation for Children seeks access to better schools for children, whether traditional public schools, private schools, charter schools, virtual schools, or a customized blend of learning environments.
Myth: School choice allows the best students to abandon the public schools.
Reality: Students who are doing poorly in public schools are most likely to take advantage of charter schools or private school choice programs. Generally, students who succeed in school see no need to switch schools. Studies also demonstrate that parents—regardless of their income—make good choices when provided with educational choices.