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June 2016 Brief: Volume 23, Number 16

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School Choice Is the Right Choice!


by Dr. Don Racheter


The Iowa General Assembly (IGA) needs to change the K-12 educational system for Iowa students from the current geographical-assignment system to a complete school-choice plan where the tax money allocated follows the child as soon as possible in order to bring all the benefits research has shown these plans provide to our state. Public Interest Institute has written about this problem and its solution numerous times in the past[1] and has been joined by Iowans for Tax Relief[2], Tax Education Foundation[3], Iowa Chapter of Americans for Prosperity[4], and numerous other groups[5] in advancing this common-sense reform. Recently the fourth edition of “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice” by Greg Forster made the following summary of the benefits of school choice:


[T]he empirical evidence shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy. A few outlier cases that do not fit this pattern may get a disproportionate amount of attention, but the research consensus in favor of school choice as a general policy is clear and consistent.[6]


How is it possible that one simple shift in funding streams can deliver all these benefits? The simple answer is the power of competition. We see it every day in the improvements in our automobiles, our cell phones, our shopping centers, and all the other aspects of our economy where providers have to compete for our business. By contrast, the areas of the American economy where we don’t see “more for less” are those where government prevents competition – Amtrak, the post office, VA hospitals, and public education. Forster says the difference in results is not hard to explain:


School choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools by allowing students to find the schools that best match their needs and by introducing healthy competition that keeps schools mission-focused. It saves money by eliminating administrative bloat and rewarding good stewardship of resources. It breaks down the barriers of residential segregation, drawing students together from diverse communities. And it strengthens democracy by accommodating diversity, de-politicizing the curriculum, and allowing schools the freedom to sustain the strong institutional cultures that are necessary to cultivate democratic virtues, such as honesty, diligence, achievement, responsibility, service to others, civic participation, and respect for the rights of others.[7]


While the “gold standard” in school-choice reform is a voucher for the full amount of tax dollars collected by local, state, and federal governments which is spent on each student and which is given to the parents of each student instead of to the nearest local school, other reforms which move in the direction of school choice such as charter schools, education savings accounts, tax-deductible scholarships, etc. have proven helpful as well.


When students are given a choice to escape schools which are failing them, it often results in the public schools shaping up so as to retain their clients and the teachers’ and administrators’ jobs! A “win-win” for those who leave and for those who stay behind. As Americans for Prosperity put it succinctly in their “Reform Iowa” brochure, “Parents – not bureaucrats or administrators – should decide where a child goes to school. No child should be forced into a school that does not work for them because of their zip code.”[8]



[1] Stephen M. King, “Charter Schools in America: Will They Be Successful?” INSTITUTE BRIEF, October 2008; Stephen M. King, “Choice through Charters: Policy Analysis of Iowa Charter School Legislation,” POLICY STUDY, January 2009; Deborah D. Thornton, “Everyone Wants School Choice,” INSTITUTE BRIEF, November 2013; Deborah D. Thornton, “Unions, Administrators, and School Choice,” INSTITUTE BRIEF, February 2013; Deborah D. Thornton, “Educational Freedom – for Your Child, My Child, All Children,” POLICY STUDY, February 2014; Deborah D. Thornton, “Freedom to Choose, Equality of Education,” INSTITUTE BRIEF, March 2014; Guy Sorman, “Opportunity for All: How Freedom of Choice Improves Education,” FACTS & OPINIONS, July 2014.
[2] “School’s In: Do You Know Where Your Tax Dollars Are? Taxpayers Spent nearly $10,000 Per Student for K-12 in 2007,” THE WATCHDOG, August 2007, < reports/0000/0019/watchdog_08-21-07.pdf> accessed on May 24, 2016.
[3] Deborah D. Thornton, “Do Over! Do Over!” Tax Education Foundation BRIEF, January 2009, <> accessed on May 24, 2016.
[4] “Reform Iowa,” <> accessed on May 24, 2016.
[5] The most prominent of these groups is the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which publishes the “School Choice Advocate” on a quarterly basis, “The ABCs of School Choice” on an annual basis, and many other publications available through its website at <>
[6] Greg Forster, “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice,” May 2016, p. 1, <> accessed on May 24, 2016.
[7] Ibid.
[8] “Reform Iowa.”


Dr. Don Racheter is President of Public Interest Institute, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Contact him at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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