School choice remains in the news in Montana. Last summer’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to review our state’s opportunity scholarship law means the court could set an important precedent about what educational choices are available. Both the court case and School Choice Week provide a perfect chance to dispel misconceptions some Montanans might hold about school choice.
First, school choice does not undermine public schools. In fact, many forms of choice allow students to select publicly run and funded schools — just not their assigned neighborhood schools. Some Montana districts permit open enrollment policies where students can attend public schools outside their neighborhood area. And most states — albeit not Montana — permit charter schools, which use public funds but operate with a charter giving them extra flexibility to innovate.
Second, school choice provides better options for students. Traditional public schools work great for some families. But every year, thousands of Montana students fall through the proverbial cracks and fail to complete their education. These students deserve the second chance that school choice brings — the opportunity to complete their education in the learning environment that works for them.
One-size-fits-all education does not work well for every student. School choice works to match each child with a school that fits his or her unique interests, characteristics, and learning tendencies, to ensure all children have the best chance to succeed.
Third, expanding school choice can provide a boon to local communities. With Montana being one of but a handful of states without a functioning charter law, some out-of-state residents may reconsider moving to a state where their children cannot continue their charter school education. Giving parents more school options will attract the new residents needed to keep our communities thriving.
Fourth, school choice improves outcomes for private and public school students alike. A total of 33 studies have compared the outcomes of students who used opportunity scholarships to attend private schools with students who remained in public education. Of those 33 studies, all but two found that private school choice increased educational outcomes for students who remained in public schools.
Lastly, school choice saves taxpayers money. Two recent studies examining more than two dozen choice programs found that they saved taxpayers at least $4.9 billion, or more than $3,100 per student. With school choice saving taxpayer funds, this solution seems a no-brainer for Montana families.
This School Choice Week, Americans will assemble for 51,300 events and activities from Jan. 26 through Feb. 1. The celebration takes on particular importance this year, as the coming decision from the Supreme Court regarding Montana’s school choice law could set a national precedent. Here’s hoping that the Court sides with Montana parents and children to preserve school choice.
Jeff Laszloffy is president of the Montana Family Foundation and former Speaker Pro Tempore of the Montana House of Representatives.
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