Not true – that’s my response to the oped by Yevonne Brannon and Nick Rhodes in last week’s News & Observer about school vouchers and their supposed harmful impacts on students and schools. Let’s look at three of the biggest errors.
Brannon and Rhodes claim the current voucher (up to $4,200 for eligible students and households) fails to cover enough of the cost of tuition, saddling parents with additional costs. According to Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, however, the average median tuition for private schools in North Carolina from K-8 is $4,680, and for grades 9-12 it is $4,400.These findings clearly show the proposed voucher legislation covers a significant portion of total tuition costs and leaves most parents responsible for covering not more than $500 in additional costs.
Secondly, Brannon and Rhodes claim vouchers have failed to live up to their promises.
Research refutes the criticism. The Friedman Foundation recently reviewed 12 empirical studies examining the academic outcomes of school choice participants and various voucher programs. All the studies involved random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. What did researchers find? In a review of 11 studies, researchers found that school choice improves outcomes. Six studies found that all students benefit; five studies found that some students benefit and some are not affected. One study found no visible effect.
Also, somehow Brannon and Rhodes managed to ignore research conducted here in North Carolina on the positive impacts of choice on school participants. A 2000 study of the Charlotte Children’s Scholarship Fund found that predominantly African-American scholarship recipients had combined reading and math scores six points higher than a control group after one year of schooling. Other researchers who examined a school district in southeastern North Carolina found that between 1997 and 2001 students who exercised intradistrict school choice had significantly higher scores on state achievement tests than their counterparts in traditional schools.
Lastly, Brannon and Rhodes claim North Carolina should pass on vouchers because they would “tear apart our communities by privatizing education.” Another big claim, but once again where is the evidence? Can they point to a single instance when the scenario they describe has actually happened?
Opponents of school choice say such policies lead to more segregated schools. It’s simply not true. If private schools lack diversity, it’s generally because such schools reflect the housing patterns of the surrounding areas.
A review of high-quality school choice studies failed to show school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices. A thorough review of the research makes that clear. Private schooling and home education do not contribute to social privatization and diminish people’s participation in community affairs. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the opposite is true. Organizations involved in private and home schooling tend to foster greater participation in public affairs.
Brannon and Rhodes and the organizations they represent continue to oppose meaningful reforms and believe the lack of funding is at the root of the current problems. While stable funding is a necessity for the health of any public system, such thinking ignores the growing problem vouchers are designed to fix: Too many children are trapped in struggling schools. School choice is the proven remedy for this problem. Policies that relegate children to failing schools are bad for students, schools and the taxpayers that support them.
Robert Luebke is senior policy analyst for the Civitas Institute in Raleigh. To find out more about the sources cited above, contact him at Robert.Luebke@nccivitas.org.
 An Affordable Option, Parents for Educational Freedom North Carolina 2013
 A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, Greg Forster, Ph.D. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
 For a good summary of the research on the benefits of school choice see chapter on “Parental School Choice: A ‘nuts and bolts’ guide to choice in North Carolina” by Terry Stoops, Ph.D. in First in Freedom: Transforming Ideas into Consequences for North Carolina, John Locke Foundation, 2013
 A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, Greg Forster, Ph.D, The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, 2013. pp. 22-24.
 The Civic Side of School Reform: How do School Vouchers Affect Civic Education?, Davide Campbell, Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, April 16, 2002.