School Choice Works and Should Expand in Rhode Island

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Washington Examiner editorial highlights some evidence that school choice is increasingly likely to become a broadly implemented policy.  Here’s a key piece:

The latest fissures are created by a study of the country’s largest private school choice program. According to researchers, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which provides vouchers, increased college enrollment rates by about 6 percentage points for students who participated at all. For those who were in the program for four or more years, the college enrollment rate was as much as 17 points higher.

Before anyone leaps to suggest that this really just means those schools cream off the best students, opponents of school choice should know that children in the program disproportionately come from families with low incomes and, before joining the program, were mostly at bad public schools and did poorly on tests.

Add in a possible Supreme Court ruling this session that might put new pressures on public sector labor unions (by, again, increasing choice, in this case among workers) and public support for school choice policies, and opportunity may finally come to students who are poorly served by government schools.

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As with much else, Rhode Island could be a leader in this area.  The state’s size and population density should make it fertile ground for the growth of schools serving nearly the whole state, with a plethora of options for families no matter where they live.

Evidence that I’ve seen out of Vermont and among Jewish communities (forgive the lack of links on a busy Monday) suggests that people will make decisions about where to live in order to take advantage of school choice.  If Rhode Island really wants to attract innovative companies and capture a “spillover” of the Massachusetts economy, policies that favor people, not special-interest insider groups like teachers unions would do the trick better and with much less waste and corruption than attempting to buy off those companies and people with offers to make them complicit in our state’s corruption.

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