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Want better student outcomes? Data says offer school choice.

• Mike Thomas

Where should a child go to school?

The answer should be this simple: Wherever he or she has the best opportunity for success.

Outcomes are what matter, not allegiances to any particular model or provider. This has been the inherent flaw in traditional public school education. Children are assigned to schools based on their zip codes in a take-it, or leave-it system.

Those parents with the financial resources can leave it. Those without such resources must take it.

School choice programs help level the playing field, allowing more options for low-income parents to pick the best educational environment for their children. One such program provides parents with scholarship funds to send their children to private schools.

Adults vested in traditional public schools (teachers unions, education bureaucracies, etc.) view these scholarship programs as a threat. But their concern is less about the outcomes for students than it is losing the dollars that come with students when they walk in the door.

Who gets the money certainly is not a concern for parents. Their children are their only concern, and these children should be our concern as well, because how successful they are eventually impacts all of us.

Education decisions should be based on data that measure outcomes for students, not allegiances or financial self-interest of adults.

In examining data from scholarship programs, Dr. Patrick Wolf, from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, did indeed find better outcomes for children attending scholarship schools. These included higher graduation rates, higher college enrollment and greater perseverance in college.

To quote Dr. Wolf: “Increasingly and consistently, researchers are finding that private school choice programs like the Opportunity Scholarship Program (Washington, D.C.) enable students to go farther in school.”

The good news is that there now are 56 private school choice policies in 28 states.

Dr. Wolf’s analysis, entitled “Here’s the Data to Prove School Choice Is Working,’’ can be found here.


About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at