posted on June 3, 2005 12:15 AM
Whenever school choice programs are proposed in the United States, they face fierce opposition from critics who claim that school choice benefits mostly wealthy parents, drains money from the public system, and segregates students into racial or economic groups.
But the experiences of countries that have experimented with school choice indicate that these claims are unfounded. In most cases, the main beneficiaries have been poor families living in inner cities. In Hungary, where vouchers were introduced after the fall of communism, most new private schools have emerged in poor inner-city or rural areas, where access to good public schools is most limited.
Although private schools receive public funds on a per-child basis, they typically cost less than what the government pays to educate children in the public system. When more children choose private schools, public schools actually have more money to spend on students.
In Alberta, Canada, where children can attend either a private or public school, public schools have improved the quality and diversity of their programs. They have also focused more attention on parental satisfaction and academic outcomes. As a result, Alberta public schools continue to attract the bulk of local students.
Rather than segregate students into racial, educational, or economic groups, school choice seems to do just the opposite.