Over the coming days, we’ll be posting the top ten most common educational choice (school choice) myths and debunk them. Here is the second post in the series focusing on the first school choice myth we hear most often in Iowa:
Introduction and Basic Principles
We believe, as most Iowans do, that parents are the primary educators of their children and are ultimately responsible for their upbringing. We also believe that the State of Iowa has a compelling (and state Constitutional) interest in ensuring every child has at least a quality, basic education.
In a society that compels education, currently pays for every child to obtain a government-run education, and can enforce up to a 30 day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine on parents for failing to ensure a child obtains an approved education; we believe the least the state should do is ensure each parent is empowered to choose the education that best meets their child’s needs. This would accomplish the state’s compelling interest in every child being educated is met while respecting the right of parents to direct that education.
Opponents of empowering parents with more choices in education say that we already have school choice – anyone can simply pay for a private education or sacrifice an income and educate at home. This tired argument ignores the financial realities of most Iowa families and perpetuates a system where only wealthier families and a limited number of lower income families (through scholarships) actually have that choice. We don’t believe denying lower-income, middle-income, and parents with children who need something different than their neighborhood school district can provide is a compassionate position. Even if every public school building could meet the needs of every child in the area, we believe the state owes parents options in respect of their natural role as primary caregivers and educators.
Myth Number 1: Educational choice programs drain resources from an already underfunded public school system. (“Public dollars for public schools.”)
There is a philosophical and a practical answer this most-common myth:
- Philosophical Answer – We believe that it is our Biblical obligation to care about the education that the majority of Iowans will still choose if a universal school choice program is put in place. Therefore, we want to see our public schools succeed as well and would not support a program we believed had a chance of harming any child’s educational environment.
- Practical Answer – If it were true that educational choice programs “drained” public schools of funding, then the state would be obligated to make up that difference. This has, however, never been the case in states with large choice programs. Iowa choice advocates aren’t asking the Iowa Legislature to reinvent the wheel. Many types of programs have been implemented in dozens of states and none have found that public schools are damaged by choice programs. According to research compiled by EdChoice, “Researchers have conducted 52 analyses on the fiscal effects of private school choice programs. Forty-seven found these programs generated overall fiscal savings for taxpayers; four found programs were cost-neutral; and one found a Louisiana program for students with exceptional special needs generated net costs.” Furthermore, we have not found a single example of a public school building or district struggling because of an educational choice program. States with larger programs still fund public education at similar or greater levels and public schools have increased per-pupil expenditures as taxpayer money continues to roll in with slightly fewer students to educate. Iowa’s school choice coalition would never support a program that has been shown to or may harm public schools. The Institute For Justice also has a great resource outlining common myths and highlighting in “Reality #1” that school choice programs save taxpayers money. That money can go back to public schools or be used for other priorities.
Public dollars should go to educate the public, not just be limited to public institutions at the exclusion of other providers. Nonpublic school students and their families are members of the public too and these are their dollars as well. In almost every other area of government spending (universal preschool, higher education research and tuition grants, private contractors building infrastructure or providing services to government), private providers are critical. For some reason, K-12 education has been the exception and there is no reason that shouldn’t change. Many precious children and their futures that demand it does.
Interested in diving into all ten myths? You can read the full article here. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest developments in our effort to ensure every child has access to the educational environment that best meets their needs.