FUNDING STUDENTS NOT SYSTEMS

Claim:

"School Choice Defunds Public Schools!"

Responses:

  • The money doesn’t belong to the government schools. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution. We should fund students, not systems.
  • Why would giving families a choice “defund” public schools?
    • There are only two answers to this rhetorical question, both of which only make the argument for school choice more compelling.
      1. Families aren’t happy with their residentially assigned government school (which is a great argument for allowing those families to choose rather than trapping their kids in schools that aren’t meeting their needs).
      2. The private school chosen by the parent isn’t actually better than their residentially assigned government school (which is a paternalistic argument that implies families don’t know what’s best for their own kids. The reality is parents know and care more about their children’s needs than bureaucrats sitting in offices hundreds of miles away).
  • Allowing families to choose their grocery store doesn’t “defund” HEB. Allowing families to choose their school doesn’t “defund” government schools.School choice doesn’t defund public schools. If anything, public schools defund families. School choice initiatives just return the money to the rightful owners – or at least the intended beneficiaries of the funding.
  • School choice doesn’t defund public schools. If anything, public schools defund themselves when they fail to meet the needs of families year after year.
  • If public schools are doing a great job then they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
  • U.S. public schools spent over $16,000 per student in 2020 according to the Census Bureau. School choice proposals such as education savings accounts would only allow the state portion, less than half of the total funding per student, to follow the child. Public schools get to keep thousands of dollars for students they no longer educate. In other words, public schools would end up with more money per student. Just imagine if Safeway were able to keep your grocery funding even after you started shopping at Trader Joe’s. That would be a great deal for Safeway. School choice is similarly a great deal for public schools.
  • 3 Big Lies About School Choice: three-minute video.

Claim:

"School Choice would destroy Public Schools!"

Responses:

  • Why do you believe giving families a choice would “destroy” public schools?
  • School choice doesn’t destroy public schools. It makes them better. Public schools up their game in response to competition.
  • 25 of the 28 studies on the topic find statistically significant positive effects    of private school choice competition on student outcomes in public schools.
  • A peer-reviewed meta-analysis from 2019 also concludes school choice competition improves outcomes in public schools.
  • Another peer-reviewed systematic review of this evidence shows that 20 of 21 studies found positive effects of school choice competition on out comes in public schools.
  • For example, from the latest 2021 study in Florida: “we explore how the massive scale-up of a Florida private school choice program affected public school students’ outcomes. Program expansion modestly benefited students (through higher standardized test scores and lower absenteeism and suspension rates) attending public schools closer to more pre-program private school options. Effects are particularly pronounced for lower-income students, but results are positive for more affluent students as well.”
  • School choice is a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Claim:

"PUBLIC FUNDS ARE FOR Public Schools!"

Responses:

  • There’s no such thing as “public” funding. They are taxpayer dollars.
  • “Public” dollars that can be used at private institutions:
    • Pell Grants
    • Tuition Equalization Grant Program
    • Pre-K Programs
    • GI Bill
    • Food Stamps
    • WIC
    • Medicaid
    • Section 8
    • Social Security
  • Should low-income families be forced to spend their food stamp dollars at residentially assigned government grocery stores?
  • Do opponents of school choice want to get rid of food stamps, Medicaid, and Pell Grants since those “public dollars” can be used at private institutions?
  • Do opponents of school choice also want to prevent public schools from receiving private funding (fundraisers, donations, revenues from sporting events, etc.)?
  • Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution, public or private. We should fund students, not systems.

Claim:

"School Choice IS UNACCOUNTABLE!"

Responses:

  • Underperforming private schools shut down. Underperforming government schools get more money. Private schools are directly accountable to families.
  • We saw this maxim play out during the pandemic period. Private schools fought to reopen. Public schools fought to remain closed. The main difference was one of incentives. Private schools understood families could take their money elsewhere.
  • Red tape isn’t the same thing as accountability. The only true form of accountability is allowing families to vote with their feet to the institutions that best meet their needs.
  • If the government schools are so accountable, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
  • Some of the same people who make this claim sent their own kids to private schools. Why did they send their own kids to private schools if they’re unaccountable?

Claim:

"School Choice leads to inequities!"

Responses:

  • Trapping low-income kids in failing government schools for 13 years without exit options is what leads to inequities.
  • The most advantaged families already have some form of “school choice.” They’re more likely to have the resources to live in a residence that’s assigned to the best “public” schools. They’re more likely to have the resources to pay for private school tuition and fees out of pocket. Funding students directly empowers more families to access educational opportunities. School choice is an equalizer.
  • Some families have lied about their addresses to get their kids into better “public” schools. The current system is inequitable. ZIP code shouldn’t determine your future. We should fund students directly and empower all families to choose.
  • Less advantaged families are more likely to use existing school choice initiatives.
  • The average household income of families using Florida’s largest private school choice program is $37,730.

Claim:

"School Choice is bad for teachers!"

Responses:

  • There are teachers in private and charter schools, too.
  • 5 studies have found that private and charter school competition lead to higher teacher salaries in public schools. Competition in the market for goods and services benefits customers. Competition in the labor market benefits employees.
  • More labor market competition would mean employers would have to compete for teachers with higher pay and more autonomy.
  • The current monopolistic system doesn’t treat teachers right because it doesn’t have any real incentive to spend money wisely. Inflation-adjusted U.S. public school current spending per student has increased by 152% since 1970. Average U.S. public school teacher salary has only increased by 7% in real terms over the same period.
  • Kennesaw State University professor Ben Scafidi found that the U.S. increased public school spending per student by 27% from 1992 to 2014. Real teacher salaries dropped by 2% over the same period.
  • Without competition, the money goes to administrative bloat and staffing surges.
  • I understand the concerns of public school teachers reaching into their pockets to pay for supplies each year. But the problem isn’t with their private and charter school competition. The problem is that their monopolistic employer doesn’t have any meaningful incentive to spend money wisely, on the most important educational resource in the school, which happens to be the teachers in the classrooms.
  • Teachers unions hurt teachers: two-minute video.

Claim:

"School Choice would defund rural schools and those families don't have any other choices!"

Responses:

  • Which one is it? Rural public schools won’t lose any per-pupil funding if those students don’t have any other options.
  • The worst case scenario is that nothing changes (if families truly don’t have any other options).
  • There are many great public schools. Those schools should have nothing to fear. Right now, state-level taxpayer funding is going to failing government schools in other areas. Funding students directly with that same money would allow them to access better opportunities, which would benefit the entire state.
  • The supply of education providers is not fixed. Allowing the money to follow the child would increase the supply of options available.
  • Education savings accounts do not need to be used at a brick-and-mortar private school. Families can take their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to the education providers of their choosing (private school, micro school, tutoring, online learning, instructional materials, home-based education curriculum, etc.).

 

Claim:

"School Choice is a trojan horse that would lead to private and home school regulation!"

Responses:

  • ·      Those making this argument are missing the forest for the trees. We shouldn’t make perfect the enemy of the good. We should take the incremental wins even if they don’t automatically give us utopia. Opposing giving families a choice to accept the funding or not only cements the government school monopoly. That’s why we’ve seen teachers union boss Randi Weingarten repeat this same fearmongering argument – she wants to protect her empire at the expense of children and their families.
  • ·      The government can already regulate private and home education without school choice. It’s more likely that this will happen in the future if millions of kids who are stuck in socialist indoctrination centers without exit options today turn out to vote to regulate private education in the future. We might as well give families a choice to accept the funding or not, which will help us defend against future calls for regulation by building a bigger coalition and would make those future calls for regulation less likely by making private education more mainstream.
  • ·      We should all be vigilant in watching out for regulations, and fight against them together as any possible regulations are introduced. We should be sure to read the bills and call for amendments if onerous regulations are included. If the government tried to regulate private education today, without school choice, we would band together to prevent that from happening. If the government tried to regulate private education in the future, with school choice, we should do the same thing and fight back, together.
  • ·      No school choice program forces any families or schools to accept the money. It’s all voluntary. Families can make their own decisions about whether to accept the money. Families should feel free to reject the funding if they want, but they shouldn’t have the power to force others to spend their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars at government schools.
  • ·      “ESA students” can be defined separately from “homeschool” students in the law (as was done in Arizona). If you accept the funding, your child is an “ESA student” even if what you’re doing looks a lot like homeschooling. This is to protect pure homeschoolers from future regulations.
  • ·      As the great Thomas Sowell once said, “there are no solutions. There are only tradeoffs.” There are potential costs and benefits of every policy change. Those fearmongering are focusing on one possible cost of giving families a choice without realizing that there are large guaranteed costs of opposing that choice and cementing the status quo. The real costs of cementing the government school monopoly outweigh the possible future costs of giving families a choice.

Claim:

"School Choice is unconstitutional because of the separation of church and state!"

Responses:

  • Are Pell Grants unconstitutional because taxpayer dollars can be used at religious private universities?
  • Is Medicaid unconstitutional because taxpayer dollars can be used at religious private hospitals?
  • Are pre-K programs such as Head Start unconstitutional because taxpayer dollars can be used at religious pre-K providers?
  • Funding students directly when it comes to K-12 education does not violate the Establishment Clause for the same reason these other programs do not violate the Establishment Clause. Families and students are the primary beneficiaries of the funding. Families can choose between religious and nonreligious providers.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v Simmons-Harris (2002) that an Ohio school choice program did not violate the Establishment Clause.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court further ruled in favor of religious liberty and school choice in Espinoza v. Montana (2020) and Carson v. Makin (2022).

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