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Do school choice programs hurt traditional public schools by taking money away from them?

For a variety of reasons, school choice is winning this year. Through school choice, parents are given the opportunity to choose great schools that work best for their sons and daughters—whether that is a traditional public school, a charter school, or a private school, to name a few.

But there are numerous myths concerning educational choice programs. And in order for parents and students to make well-informed education decisions, these myths must be debunked. One common myth is that school choice programs hurt traditional public schools by taking money away from them. Bob Bowdon, Choice Media founder and executive director, calls this myth the “draining money myth” and explains in the video below how believing it requires three blindfolds.

1. Those who argue school choice drains money from public schools are blind to other enrollment shifts.

“The truth is, student enrollments go up and down all the time, even without school choice. And everyone in education knows it. When local economies grow or shrink, it can force massive changes on school districts. Immigration patterns can be significant here. Homeschooling trends matter. Even a rising percentage of empty nesters can dramatically change public school enrollments without any new policies about charters or private school choice.”

2. Those who argue school choice drains money from public schools are blind to other school districts.

What about the smaller public school district down the road that is managing fine with lower enrollment and that would actually be crippled if enrollment got any smaller?

3. Those who argue school choice drains money from public schools are blind to their contradictions about district size.

If becoming a smaller district through school choice would bring financial hardships on a district, mention a district merger and see how that goes over, Bowdon says, even though it could potentially cut costs and be more efficient. “Suddenly, they will tell you that being small makes them more personalized. … The school district economies of scale concept is used selectively.”

Bottom line: “A traditional public school has no right to taxpayer money for kids it doesn’t teach. Should USPS get package revenue for a package it doesn’t deliver because you went through UPS or FedEx? It’s always best when individuals pick service providers and the funding goes to the provider that was chosen.”

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