Education bureaucrats seem to think so. Last month, Oklahoma City superintendent Rob Neu declared that the “greatest threat to public education” is legislative support for educational choice initiatives, such as education savings accounts (ESAs). ESAs in Arizona and Florida allow parents to purchase a wide variety of educational products and services—such as private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, or online courses—using 90 percent of the funds that the state would have spent to educate their child in their assigned district school.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, recently decried “the exit strategy from public education that these programs represent.” Superintendent Neu warned that ESAs would “drain already limited resources from public schools.” Likewise, Tulsa superintendent Keith Ballard predicted earlier this month that “the first 500 kids that [sic] go to a private school are going to take a million dollars out of Tulsa public” schools. Of course, the only way that a red penny intended for the district schools winds up in an ESA is if parents choose to send their children elsewhere.
Why do the people running the district schools predict a mass exodus if parents were given a choice and the money followed the child? And what does that tell us?
Teachers Lead the District School Exodus
“We’re spending more money on education, sending our kids to more classrooms, but we’re getting inferior results,” lamented Jon Gabriel in response to a new Educational Testing Service (ETS) report that paints a grim picture of the state of education in America. Though America spends more per pupil than any other developed nation, U.S. millennials rank last in both numeracy and problem solving in technology‐rich environments out of 22 countries, and third from the bottom in literacy, beating only their peers in Italy and Spain. Even our top performers fare poorly by international standards. U.S. millennials scoring in the 90th percentile ranked second to last, beating only their peers in Spain.