For those without kids in school, it may be difficult to see why expanding parental choice in education is a policy goal deserving of widespread public support. After all, one might ask, “How does it benefit me?”
The church’s support for school choice is rooted in the rights of parents to determine the type of education their child receives. But it’s also true that increasing access to non-public schools can contribute to the well-being of all persons, whether or not they participate directly in school choice programs. Non-public education has benefits that extend far beyond the classroom, and can help foster the conditions necessary for all Minnesotans to flourish.
School choice can be a stimulus package for the economy. Enabling parents to choose schools where their kids can thrive reduces drop-out rates and improves academic performances, which can lead to a better-educated workforce, more jobs and higher incomes. For instance, a recent study of a proposed school choice program in Texas estimated that the program would increase the state’s GDP by 17 to 30 percent over the next 25 years. Expanding parental choice here in Minnesota could produce similar economic benefits.
Greater public savings
Increasing access to non-public schools can also save taxpayers money. The Council for American Private Education estimates that non-public schools already save taxpayers $49.9 billion annually. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis alone save state and local taxpayers over $300 million. Expanding parents’ ability to send their kids to non-public schools will increase these savings even further, meaning more state funding can be directed to other budget priorities that improve our communities.
Better public schools
In fact, tax savings generated from non-public schools can actually be directed to improve our state’s public schools. A study from Susan Aud, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, found that instructional spending has consistently gone up in public school districts and states that have robust parental choice in education.
This isn’t the only way expanding parental choice in education can positively impact our public school system. No less than 29 empirical studies have found that increasing access to non-public schools improved the test scores and academic outcomes of nearby public schools by introducing a healthy dynamic of competition. As one study concluded, “Public schools are more attentive to the academic needs of students when those students have more opportunities to leave those schools.”
Greater choice in education can also help make our communities safer. A recent University of Arkansas study found that students who participated in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program through high school were 75 percent less likely to commit a felony when compared to similar public school students. Additionally, two Notre Dame professors found that from 1999 to 2005 the presence of an operating Catholic school in Chicago neighborhoods was consistently associated with a statistically significant decrease in crime.
Non-public schools also strengthen communities by fostering fundamental civic values. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress civics test, which measures “how well American youth are being prepared to meet their citizenship responsibilities,” non-public school students consistently score well above the national average. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that non-public school students were 18-21 percent more likely to engage in community service than students attending public schools. Though we call them “non-public,” the reality is that these schools are making great contributions to our shared public life.
Investment in Minnesota
Greater social cohesion and civil order, a more vibrant economy and school system, and billions of dollars of savings for taxpayers; these are the fruits of expanded parental choice in education, ones that all of us can enjoy, whether we have kids in non-public schools or not.
Shawn Peterson is associate director for public policy at the Minnesota Catholic Conference. To learn more about how expanding parental choice in education enhances the common good, please visit MnCatholic.org.
Help expand parental choice in education
An important provision that would expand parental choice in education here in Minnesota is being considered by the state Legislature.
This proposal would add non-public school tuition as an eligible expense of the K-12 education tax credit. Making this change would allow more students to access non-public schools and would help foster the conditions necessary for all Minnesotans to thrive.
We need to let our legislative leaders know just how important expanding parental choice in education is to Minnesotans across the state. We need your voice to be heard at the State Capitol on this crucial issue.
Please contact your legislative leaders and tell them to support expanding parental choice in education by including the tuition tax credit in the final tax bill.
- House Speaker Kurt Daudt at 651-296-5364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk at 651-296-8881 or email@example.com
— Minnesota Catholic Conference