Advocating for good public policy is a way that we can love our neighbors at the political level. A recent study by Harvard University and Cato Institute policy analysts provides us with an opportunity to exhibit this sort of neighborly kindness in calling for wise school safety policies. The study reveals the chasm currently separating public and private schools when it comes to safety.
Conducted by Dr. Corey DeAngelis and Dr. Dany Shakeel, Can Private Schools Improve School Climate? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Sample, uses survey responses from principals across the nation. Using these responses, DeAngelis and Shakeel discovered statistically significant benefits for private school students in 13 different disciplinary areas.
A few of the study’s most notable findings revealed that:
- Government schools were about 28 percent more likely to find a student in possession of a weapon
- Government schools were 18 percent more likely to have gang activity on campus
- Private schools were 13 percent less likely to experience racial tensions
- Private school students were 12 percent less likely to use illegal drugs
- Non-government schools were approximately 8 percent less likely to have physical conflicts at school
The study controlled for “school size, school type, enrollment, student-teacher ratio, percent of minority teachers, percent of minority students, and urbanicity.”
Adding to this compelling evidence, it is important to note that the study’s findings are consistent with the results of a recent Civitas Poll, which found registered, likely voters were twice as likely to state that private schools provide a safer environment for students than public schools.
“The results of our national study mirror the findings in the 2018 Civitas Institute poll on school security in North Carolina and suggest that expanding school choice programs could be tickets to safer schools,” said DeAngelis.
So, what are we to do with this information now that we are aware of it? First, it’s crucial to understand that education policy, like nearly all policy, is driven by research and public opinion.
Research serves to provide empirical evidence for a particular course of action, while public opinion polling offers lawmakers a snapshot of what the electorate is actively looking for (or in some cases, what they are willing to tolerate).
We’ve all heard it said, “Children are the future” and “Children are our most valuable resource.” Perhaps we’ve even spoken these sentiments. Here’s an opportunity for us to put feet to those words by advocating for an expansion of school choice policies, such as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and Opportunity Scholarships for lower-income families.
Ultimately, every parent wants to know that their child will return home safely at the end of each school day. If providing more school choice options helps to achieve that goal, then lawmakers would be wise to allow the research and polling to guide their policy decisions on this front.