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As the nation prepares to celebrate another record-breaking National School Choice Week, education reform is on more minds than ever, thanks to Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos’ Senate hearing, where she answered questions about her support for educational choice programs like charter schools, tax credit scholarships, vouchers and education savings accounts.

School choice has a great record of boosting student academic success and other important outcomes in states all over the country. Research on private school choice programs found students perform significantly better on math and reading tests than their public school peers, particularly after an initial adjustment period. Participating parents love Arizona’s groundbreaking education savings account program. Students enrolled in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program were 42 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime and 79 percent less likely to be convicted of a felony than a demographically-matched student in public school.

Despite a misleading narrative about charter schools published in the New York Times and repeated during DeVos’ hearing, Detroit charter students actually gained about two months of additional reading and math learning gains per year over their peers in similarly-situated traditional schools.

There is no evidence these school choice successes have come at the expense of traditional public school students. Out of the 23 studies examining the impact of choice programs on local district schools, 22 found improved academic performance, likely as a result of competition (the 23rd found no impact). In other words, school choice programs have encouraged public schools to serve students better, and all students are benefiting from parents empowered to choose schools.

This record of improvement could not come at a more important time for our nation’s education system. After decades of stagnation, math and reading scores on the Nation’s Report Card declined last year. Furthermore, American performance on Programme for International Student Assessment, a test which compares students in more than 70 countries all over the world, is mediocre.

Teachers unions blame these consistently-disappointing results on “underfunding,” but for the last four decades American taxpayers have dug out their pocketbooks to increase education funding with little to show for it. The inflation-adjusted cost of K-12 education has skyrocketed since the 1970s, while results have flatlined (at best). Most recently, a rigorous assessment on the federal School Improvement Grant program, which cost taxpayers $5 billion, showed no impact on math or reading scores, high school graduation rates, or college enrollment.

At this critical juncture for our education system, the American Legislative Exchange Council is releasing an all-new version of our annual report, the Report Card on American Education. The report ranks state performance across six crucial areas in education policy: academic standards, charter school policy, homeschooling regulatory burden, private school choice, teacher quality, and digital learning. Because educational choice holds so much promise, charter school policies allowing schools to thrive without interference and school choice programs that empower parents and students were given a heavier weight than other categories.

This School Choice Week, parents, students, educators, voters and policymakers should use the information in the report and on www.alecreportcard.com to better understand the education systems in their states, learn from states that have become educational leaders, and examine their own state’s records when it comes to the policies that are transforming our education system for the better.

Inez Feltscher is director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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