School choice works because of tilted playing field

Market competition between schools is a highly controversial issue. As readers of this column know, I support parental choice.  But at the same time, I have repeatedly stressed that it is hardly perfect. 

Using data from Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program that has been in place since 2002, a new study found that it produces benefits for students in the form of higher test scores in reading and math, as well as lower rates of suspensions and absences (“The Ripple Effect,” Education Next, Winter 2022).

I believe that the No. 1 reason for the benefits is parental involvement.  When parents have to apply for admission to a school, rather than automatically be enrolled, they have skin in the game.  As a result, they make sure that their children study hard and follow the rules of the new school.

Traditional neighborhood public schools, therefore, become the schools of last resort.  Anyone who shows up at the door anytime during the semester must be enrolled by law.  As a result, there is no incentive to study and behave.

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