School Choice Education Matters

By Darrel Nerove

School Choice

One of the primary and initial topics addressed by the Secretary of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been the topic of School Choice.  School Choice refers to the ability of parents to determine the right course of action, in regards to the schools their children attend.  Parents always have a choice about sending their children to a public versus private school.  However, without School Choice, when parents choose a private school option, they do not receive any money, or voucher, to offset the expenses of the private school option.  With School Choice, when parents choose to send their children to private schools, they can receive a voucher to help offset tuition expenses. The intent of School Choice is not to diminish the education provided in public schools, but to strengthen the quality overall. It would also allow parents to select private schools, when that is the best option for their children.  

To be very clear, the primary issue is not about who gets funds (private or public schools); the primary issue is about quality of education (and associated topics, such as security).

Quality of Education

At the heart of the School Choice issue is the quality of education provided in public schools.  Many school districts have outstanding evaluations, while some receive poor evaluations.  When a school district receives a poor performance evaluation or has significant security issues, many parents become concerned about sending their children to that district, or a school in that district.  This is a reasonable response and should be expected from parents, who care about their children’s education and safety.  Sadly, many parents have no other option but to send their children to the public schools in their district.  They are often not in a financial situation to afford other options, such as moving to a better school district or selecting a private school.  Thus, School Choice, attempts to offset the costs by providing vouchers.


If public schools have performance evaluations equal to that of private schools, there would likely be little or no discussion about School Choice.  Parents would be happy to send their children to high performing public schools.  

With increased competition between public and private schools, public schools would likely significantly improve their performance.  When public schools do not have to be concerned about a loss of funding due to voucher programs, public schools have a diminished motivation to improve their performance.  However, by enabling vouchers for School Choice, this increases competition (especially competition for funding) and both public and private schools will likely increase their performance as a result.


Taxes are paid to support many infrastructure elements.  School education is one of those areas that receives funding, paid for by the taxpayers.  Thus, as taxpayers, should we be forced to settle for substandard school options, or should we have the option to choose between public and private school options (and have a corresponding amount of money go toward that option)?  

Department of Education

Secretary DeVos has asked the states to include School Choice in their plans.  A recent report indicated that only a few states have complied.  Many states and school districts want to avoid this issue, as it represents the potential for funding to go from public to private schools.  Many people (including politicians) feel more loyalty to public schools than they do private schools.  However, all elected officials, educators, and school administrators must remain focused on the primary goal which is to provide quality education to our children.  

Research and Analysis

Independent research and analysis is needed to analyze the overall impact on the quality of education before and after School Choice implementations.  Likewise, when a public school’s performance declines as a result, we need to analyze the root causes and seek to address and fix those root causes — not point at and blame School Choice for performance issues.