School Choice is Coming

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School Choice is Coming

In his unforgettable 1964 speech titled “A Time for Choosing,” Ronald Reagan said that “outside of its [few] legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.” At every turn over the past century, experience has validated Reagan’s underlying belief that free markets are superior to government monopolies in nearly every aspect of our lives.

Therefore, it is truly ironic that Americans have consigned something as important as education to government-run institutions. Worse yet, we’ve permit- ted self-serving labor unions, politicians and bureau- crats to delay and curtail even limited efforts to create market-driven alternatives.

Over the past half century, the results have been unambiguous.

Graduation rates have remained stagnant since the 1970s, with only about three-quarters of students graduating high school. In some of America’s largest cities, fewer than half of all students complete high school.

Reading and math achievement on the Na- tional assessment of Educational Progress (or NaEP) is lackluster; across the country, just one-third of fourth-grade students are proficient in reading and just 40 percent are “on grade level” in math.

Despite the world’s highest per capita spend- ing on education, American students rank “in the middle of the pack” on international assessments of science and math compre- hension. And,

Meanwhile, the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers persists, as does the gap between poor children and their more affluent counterparts.

Even in what are traditionally thought of as the higher performing suburban schools, academic achievement is woefully lacking. Researchers Jay Greene and Josh McGee found that, “out of the nearly 14,000 public school districts in the U. S., only 6 percent have average student math achievement scores which would place their students in the upper third of global performance.”

On the SAT, students in private independent schools scored at the 60th percentile, homeschoolers scored at the 55th percentile, religious private school students scored at the 45th per- centile, and public-school students scored at the 34th percentile...

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