OPINION: Columnist Debunks School Choice Myths

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

For thousands of students, news of probation for Atlanta Public Schools was yet another time that adults key to their education have let them down. And for too many parents, unable to afford other options, it was one more reminder their child’s educational future is too tightly bound by their ZIP code.

National School Choice Week is underway, and the urgency of extending truly equal opportunity for all students — whether in Atlanta or elsewhere — is only growing. Arguments to the contrary rely largely on myths, such as:

1. School choice amounts to “stealing” money from public schools.

Whether you talk about publicly funded charter schools or vouchers for use at any type of school, this objection comes up. It’s wrong-headed.

State-approved charter schools get no more money per student than the local system spends. If one of XYZ School’s 100 students leaves to attend a charter, XYZ will have 99 percent as much funding as before, for 99 percent as many kids.

Yes, fixed costs will remain. But they are the part of school budgets that most need scrutiny. Georgia has even more school systems (186) than it has counties (159), and more can be done to cut administrative expenses and share services to gain efficiencies.

Vouchers are an even better deal for local systems. Georgia’s existing voucher program, for special-needs children, will pay private-school tuition for them. But it won’t cover more than what the state pays traditional public schools per pupil. And the local system retains the locally raised revenue it would have spent on those children.

Read more: http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2011/01/21/debunking-some-myths-about-school-choice/