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National Review

Arkansas has a major school choice opportunity — unless misguided enemies get in the way

Arkansaw’s progress seemed stagnant in a year when the school selection movement was gaining momentum nationwide. But a month after the Arkansas General Assembly killed the school selection bill, the state legislature breathed new life into its efforts to expand educational opportunities. Six states have already passed new selection policies or expanded existing policies this year in response to families demanding more education options, and similar bills still pass more than 12 other legislatures. I am. West Virginia has passed a new state-funded new kindergarten-to-high school education savings account for all children who transfer from public schools or enroll in kindergartens. This is currently the most widespread education selection policy in the country. In contrast, the Arkansas State House did not pass a bill that would create a very modest educational choice policy for children in low-income families, foster children, students with disabilities, and military children. If House Bill 1371 is passed, up to $ 4 million can be used to provide up to $ 7,000 worth of scholarships to about 570 children, just 0.1% of the state’s kindergarten-to-high school students. Probably. For comparison, schools in the Arkansaw district spend an average of $ 11,000 or more per student per year. According to bill sponsor Ken Bragg (R., Sheridan), the end of the bill was due to fierce opposition from state public school supervisors. “Most of the people I talked to felt it was a good bill and saw many benefits,” Bragg lamented, but sadly “pressure has replaced the benefits of the bill.” .. Fortunately, Arkansas Senator did not succumb to any pressure. On Thursday, it passed Senate Bill 680, backed by Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education, by an overwhelming margin. Although half the size of the previous proposal and limited to low-income children, the bill still represents a major step towards providing broad access to educational options. The Arkansas House now has another opportunity to do it right by the Arkansas family, who are anxious for more educational options. Yesterday, the Arkansas Revenue Tax Commission resolved to encourage Full House to pass the bill. To do so, the legislature must recognize that the disastrous warning of a full-body collapse by the supervisor is not as reliable as Chicken Little, who shouts that the sky is falling. Studies on the impact of education choice policies on public schools tell a very different story. It turns out that such a policy overwhelmingly benefits not only the participating students, but also the students remaining in the school in the assigned district. Of the 27 studies, 25 found that students attending district schools improved their standardized test performance after the introduction of the elective program. In other words, expanding choice and competition, as opposed to the fear of opponents of school choice, encourages traditional public schools to improve their performance. In fact, a recent study by the University of Arkansas found that in states with strong education choice policies, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (known as the “National Report Card”) has been significantly over the last two decades. It has been improved. The study concludes that “the higher the level of freedom of education, the higher the level of achievement of NAEP and the greater the degree of achievement of NAEP”. Even after adjusting for factors such as per-student education spending, student-to-teacher ratio, teacher quality, and household income, the study found that “expansion of parental choices in education is average in all forms. We found this to be consistent with student improvement. US state performance. ”The survey found that the highest percentage of students took advantage of private school selection programs, charter schools, and public school admissions to public schools. Focuses on the experience of Arizona, the leading state of education freedom. If Chicken Little was right, Arizona’s public school system would have collapsed by now. Instead, Arizona has been one of the national leaders in learning the outcomes of NAEP for the past 20 years. No sky has fallen in any of the 29 states that have some form of private school selection program. Indeed, the sun is still shining in their public school system. And it’s not only collapsed, it’s actually working better than before. Arkansas General Assembly members now have the opportunity to expand educational opportunities for families in the state. They should grab it.