Private Schools: Best for the Disadvantaged
does the better job of educating low-income and minority children, the public
schools or the private schools?
Clearly, and ironically, it's the
private schools. Most people think that private schools cost more and that
explains why their students and parents feel more satisfied with the
educational product they received. But actually, public schools are more
expensive, pupil for pupil, than their private counterparts. It's just that the
parents of public-school children don't have to pay for the public education
out of their own pockets. They are distanced from the tax funding, which is
averaging around $9,000 per pupil per year in United States K-12 schools, not
counting off-budget spending such as debt service and construction projects.
The obvious advantages that private
education yields for kids of all income levels and races is fueling the boom in
private school enrollments and the push for school choice programs around the
Foundations and donors looking to
improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children might be forced to
reject supporting public education because its track record is pretty sorry.
The achievement gap between rich and poor, white and black or brown in public
schools has been widening, or staying static, for the past 30 or 40 years. Today's
white children score an average of 200 points higher on the SAT and on all
subjects tested by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Yet in private schools, the
achievement gap has been markedly narrowed in recent years. Researcher Jay
Greene, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, revealed that in studies
using NAEP data compiled from all Milwaukee public-school students of all
income levels, comparing their scores with those of the low-income participants
in Milwaukee's private-school voucher program.
Greene reported that voucher
students were more than 1½ times as likely to graduate as public-school
students. The test-score gap between the two races actually widened in writing
and math between fourth grade and 12th grade among public-school
students, Greene found. The gaps increased by 15% and 10%, respectively,
although the racial gaps got slightly smaller in reading and science in those
However, Greene noted that
relatively high numbers of minority students drop out of public schools every
year, leaving a pool of minority students in public schools who are
academically better performers than minority students as a whole. So by all
rights, the gaps should have been narrowed considerably more.
That's exactly what happened in
Milwaukee's private schools. The racial gap in reading, 27 points for
fourth-graders in public schools, was reduced by nearly 50%, to a gap of only
14 points dividing the races for seniors. Writing, math and science gaps also
were closed, by factors of 18% to 26%.
the Citizen's Guide to Education Reform, www.schoolchoices.org