All eyes are on Pennsylvania this week as the country waits to find out the results of the presidential election.
Pennsylvania could also teach Missouri a thing or two about the importance of school choice.
Families in Pennsylvania have had access to school choice programs since 2001 with over 52,000 students receiving scholarships through two different programs to help them escape poorly performing schools in the 2017-18 school year.
Opponents of school choice frequently argue that giving families options will result in draining funds from traditional public education, but in a state that has much more expansive school choice, both public charter and private school scholarships, funding for key metrics like teacher pay and per-pupil spending far outpaces those same funding metrics in Missouri.
Even though Pennsylvania has had private school choice programs for almost two decades, on average, Pennsylvania teachers make about $18,000 more than Missouri teachers each year, and Pennsylvania spends about $5,000 more per pupil each year than we do in Missouri.
“How is that possible?” you might ask.
It might just be that those choice programs not only help students, but they also help grow a state’s economy.
A study on the impact of private school programs in Pennsylvania released early this fall shows that providing scholarships to 52,144 students in the 2017-18 school year resulted in:
But it gets even better if you expand the number of students receiving scholarships. The researchers found that a 10 percent annual increase in funding for the program could, by 2030, result in:
You might argue that that is great for Pennsylvania, but Missouri is a very different state with different needs and economic drivers, but a 2018 study of the Missouri economy revealed that expanding school choice here could have similarly large impacts.
In that study, Stanford University Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek argues that expanding school choice, and thus improving the level and quality of education in Missouri, could result in an additional $500 billion in additional economic activity within 10 year’s time.
If we were able to raise student performance by one-quarter standard deviation over the next ten years that would result in $786 billion in additional economic activity, and if we were able to match the educational achievement of the top-performing state in the region, Minnesota, then we would see over $1 trillion in additional economic activity.
“While some argue that the existing changes – charters or accountability, for example – have been too radical, the evidence suggests the opposite,” writes Hanushek “The costs of not improving our educational system in Missouri are extraordinarily large. We have to push harder on the incentives that we know will have positive impacts. Just as importantly, we have to actively consider truly dramatic options. To achieve true change, we must not shy from large changes in parental choice, teacher evaluations and pay, and strengthened accountability.”
The reality is that Missouri will be struggling in the next couple of years as we fight to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic and the state really use a new economic driver.
So isn’t it time we stopped watching other states and started making real changes right here in Missouri?
Click here to take the first step in joining the movement to improve education in Missouri!
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