School-Choice Data Reveals Parents Opting Out of Private Schools for...

Policy & Government

School-Choice Data Reveals Parents Opting Out of Private Schools for Charters and Virtual

Mar 29, 2017

Denver County, Recovery and New York City school districts were ranked as the nation’s top school-choice districts in the fifth Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI), a ranking system based on thirteen categories of policy and practice. The index was released early this morning by the Center on Children and Families (CCF), a nonprofit public-policy organization in the Brookings Institution. Education Secretary Betsy Devos joined CCF senior fellow Grover J. Whitehurst today at Brookings to discuss the report’s results, which suggest political affiliation and school choice expansion have little correlation.

Findings from the ECCI report reflect a significant uptick in districts adopting school choice models through tax credit scholarships, education savings accounts and school voucher programs. According to the report, the proportion of large districts with school choice options almost doubled from .29 to .56 over the last 16 years. There is also decrease in the number of parents choosing private schools, while demand for public charter schools has increased. The center cities only 9% of parents opting for private schools while 10% chose public charters. “Here in the District of Columbia, charter schools serve nearly 50% of public school students. No one could imagine that 25 years ago,” explained Whitehurst, to the crowd at Brookings. Virtual school options are also increasing, particularly in suburban or rural school districts.

For many following DeVos, her message this morning was familiar: “I believe we need to move from an institution and building system focus on education to a student focus,” she said, emphasizing the need to return power to the states and enacting policies that promote school choice.

When pressed about accountability by Whitehurst (as he noted not all school-choice models show academic improvements), DeVos’ response did not focus on outcome data, but inputs through policy. “I am not a numbers person in the same way you are, to me, the policies around empowering parents and moving the decision making to parents is the direction we need to go.”

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