by Dr. Robert Luebke
Senior Fellow, Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The recent Civitas School Choice Poll highlights the growing popularity of school choice in North Carolina and the public’s desire for expanded educational options.
An important question emerges from the growth of school choice programs In North Carolina and nationally: What are the long-term impacts of school choice on students who remain in public schools?
That’s the question Professors David Figlio, Cassandra Hart and Krzysztof Karbownik sought to answer in a research paper. The research measured the impact of the massive 15 year scale up of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, the largest voucher program in the country, on public schools and public-school students.
What did they find?
We find consistent evidence that as the program grows in size, students in the public schools that faced higher initial competitive pressure levels, see greater gains from the program expansion than do those in locations with less competitive pressure. Importantly, we find that these positive externalities extend to behavioral outcomes – absenteeism and suspensions- that have not been well explored in prior literature on school choice from either voucher or charter programs. Our preferred competition measure, the Competitive Pressure Index, produces estimates implying that a doubling in the number of students participating in the voucher program increases test scored by 3 to 7 percent of a standard deviation and reduces behavior problems by 6 to 9 percent relative to their sample means.
The authors continue:
Finally, we find that public school students who are most positively affected come from comparatively lower socioeconomic background, which is the set of students that schools and districts should be most concerned about losing under the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.
Strong evidence that school choice is working for all students.