Avatar of admin

by

Does School Choice Increase Inequality?

July 20, 2015 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick

image

Jason Bedrick

When Nevada enacted the nation’s first nearly universal education savings accounts (ESAs), education reformers celebrated. ESAs empower families to tailor their children’s education to meet their individual learning needs and have the potential to unleash a wave of innovation.

Others, however, have been less enthusiastic. Perhaps the most common concern is the one raised recently by David Osborne, director of the project on Reinventing America’s Schools at the Progressive Policy Institute, who fears ESAs could exacerbate inequality:

[Nevada’s new ESA program will] make access to quality education less equal than it is today. Why do I say it will do that? Because it allows families to add to their education savings account to buy a more expensive education. Most parents want what’s best for their children, so those who can afford it will do just that. Those who can’t will not. And the education market will stratify by income, far more than it already does. In a decade, it will look like the markets for houses, cars and other private goods, with huge disparities based on wealth.

Osborne warns of vast inequality in education, but his doomsday scenario more appropriately describes the public education status quo.

Indeed, America’s public education system already looks like the market for housing because, to a great extent, it is the market for housing. Students are assigned to district schools based on the location of their home, so the quality of the local district school is a major consideration for those who can afford it. Educational choice laws like ESAs break the link between education and housing—and low-income families have the most to gain.

Breaking the Link Between Education and Housing

America’s district schools are already highly stratified by income. According to a 2012 report by the Brookings Institution, “the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams.”

Wealthier families can afford homes in communities with better performing district schools. The Brookings report found that in “the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.” In other words, parents pay the equivalent of tuition at many private schools to live in districts with higher-performing public schools.

ESAs …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.