Blair Kacynski, a member of the Youngs Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation found after decades of initiatives in American public schools to close the achievement gap, the gap between low-income and non-minority students persists. A new study by the Friedman Foundation suggests that school choice may be our best tool for narrowing gaps and increasing integration in schools.
In the study, titled “The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K-12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools,” Dr. Ben Scafidi argues, “For two decades, 1980 to 2000, public schools became more segregated by race as neighborhoods became more racially integrated.
From 2000 to 2010, public school integration tended to lag improvements in neighborhood integration. For decades public schools have become significantly more segregated by income class, especially in recent years. … Perhaps enhanced school choice—of the kind that allows schools to offer diverse educational offerings—can ameliorate segregation.”
According to the Friedman Foundation study, families are voluntarily choosing to live integrated lives, but the structure of the public education system slows similar progress in that sector. Universal school choice could bolster integration while empowering all families to access education options that meet their children’s learning needs.
Greg Forster, senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, found evidence that families, when given the choice, choose to leave their government-assigned schools and seek another educational option. Notably, Forster’s meta-analysis found that racial integration increased considerably in seven of the eight empirical studies.
Scafidi notes that “the existing evidence on private school choice programs in the United States indicates that those policies have led to greater racial integration in schools.” The potential for school choice options to increase integration further supports the growing body of literature on the benefits of choice in education, which include improved academic outcomes, increased student safety, and heightened parental satisfaction. It adds to a growing list of reasons for state and local policymakers to embrace choice in education.