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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Journal: Vouchers raise the bar
Studies showing an increase in test scores among minority students who were able to leave poor public schools to attend private schools add to the growing sentiment for offering choice.
August 30, 2000


AL GORE, Roy Barnes and other national and local Democrats have scoffed at the idea of providing poor children a chance at an education alternative. One reason is their claim that such an opportunity wouldn't make much difference.

Protectionist teachers unions and interest groups, including the NAACP, have resisted vouchers, arguing that there's no proof that sending poor children to non-public schools would improve learning.

But two important studies released this week shoot down many of those arguments. In one study, conducted by a Harvard political scientist, black children who left public schools for private schools in New York, Washington and Dayton, Ohio, had substantial improvement in academic achievement.

Paul Peterson's new study shows overall test scores improved more than six points among black students using privately funded scholarships compared with like children stuck in public school.

"The change from the public to private school environment is much greater for black kids than kids from other backgrounds," Peterson said. "Where they come from, less is expected of them and they achieve less."

A second study, this one released today, shows that in Charlotte, students using vouchers funded by the private Children's Scholarship Fund are also benefiting.

Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute illustrates in his research that test scores for all students increased in just one year by six points in math and seven points in reading. "When parents get to choose their children's school, the kids do better," Greene said.

Ironically, a poll released last week by Phi Delta Kappa, a professional educators fraternity, showed minority support for school choice is up, with seven out of 10 minorities supporting some type of voucher plan. Low-income families want the same opportunity as the affluent to send their children to private school.

The ground is shifting under the feet of any voucher opponent who continues to cling to a philosophy that no tax dollars should be used to educate students in a private setting. With this evidence emerging about improvement in student learning, politicians and community leaders can no longer stand in the door of the neighborhood private or parochial school.

Parents want it. Kids want it. Government can no longer keep them out.

©2000 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



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