Far too often, those who claim to fight for the interests of low-income students are actually doing the opposite. Donald Trump’s first budget proposal would allocate $1.4 billion for school-choice programs over the coming fiscal year, and many supposed education-reform advocates are not happy about it. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed last week, two prominent leaders in the field — Jonah Edelman, the president of the pro-charter school group Stand for Children, and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers — claimed that Trump’s school-choice plan would “siphon billions of dollars from public schools to fund private and religious school vouchers.” In fact, the president’s budget would invest $1.15 billion in public school-choice programs and a mere $250 million in private school-choice scholarships. Edelman and Weingarten argue that this allocation of funds would “deal a terrible blow to public schools and to the 90% of America’s children who attend them, while doing almost nothing to benefit children who receive vouchers.” They go on to claim that “facts” and “research” have shown that vouchers harm student learning and achievement. This assertion is, to be blunt, completely unsubstantiated by the evidence. Of the 15 empirical studies of private school-choice programs, ten found improved test scores, while just two found declining academic performance. Meanwhile, 21 studies assessed the academic outcomes associated with public school choice, and 20 of them found that it had improved student performance.
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