Won't school choice hurt public schools by depriving them of needed funds? No, says Friedman. "Public schools pay attention when school choice is on the table." He cites Florida as an example, noting that after a school choice program began, "schools identified as failing are already publicizing their efforts to improve by hiring more teachers, increasing funds for after-school tutoring and lowering class sizes. One superintendent, Earl Lennard, even vowed to take a 5 percent pay cut if his county's schools received a failing grade." In other words, competition works in free markets and in school choice.
In Florida, Cleveland and Milwaukee, public schools have received more aid from the state and federal government for their public schools since voucher programs were implemented.
School choice works for the benefit of students, who ought to be the focus of education. Research shows that prior to receiving a voucher, the majority of participating students score well below the national average on standardized tests. Statisticians and educational researchers from Harvard and the University of Houston conducted a re-analysis of the raw data compiled in an earlier study of the Milwaukee school choice program. They found that choice students benefit academically from the program, showing significant gains in both reading and mathematics by their fourth year of participation. And, according to John F. Witte, Troy D. Sterr and Christopher A. Thorn, who conducted the initial Milwaukee study, "the parents of Œchoice' kids are virtually unanimous in their opinion of the program: they love it. Parents are not only far more satisfied with their freely chosen private schools than they were with their former public schools, they participate more actively in their children's education now that they've made the move."
If school choice becomes the norm in America, it will be Milton Friedman's real legacy and every poor child who is liberated from a failed government school will owe him a lasting debt of gratitude.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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