What is the most persuasive argument for school choice?

I’ve written a lot about the increasingly large body of empirical evidence on the positive effects school choice programs have on student achievement — for both the students who participate in the choice programs and the students who remain in public schools.

I’ve also written a lot about other overwhelmingly positive effects of school choice — such as competition, greater educational attainment, integration, fiscal effects, school safety, etc.

I would consider these outcome indicators strong arguments in support of school choice. But it has to go deeper than that because “there will likely be no single outcome indicator that everyone can point to demonstrate success or failure because we do not all agree on what constitutes success or failure,” writes Neal McCluskey with the Cato Institute.

Which leads to what I believe is the most persuasive argument for school choice: the freedom it gives families to access an education environment that aligns with their values, desires, and principles “without having to defeat people who want something different,” continues McCluskey.

Does your child do well with self-directed learning? Project-based learning? Nature-based learning? Does your family believe a Classical approach to education is the best or is your values structure more aligned with a Montessori-inspired philosophy? Do standardized test scores matter to you? Teacher credentials? School uniforms?

Through school choice, families are able to make these value judgments, and they will differ from family to family. A one-size system is not capable of tailoring itself to align to every family’s different preferences and values.

“We somehow seem able to recognize, and largely accept, that individuals have different preferences and values when it comes to decision-making in most consumption areas, except, for some reason, in education,” writes Kerry McDonald with the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

There are many choices that families make on behalf of their children’s well-being and upbringing. And each family has different expectations of what “quality” looks like within those areas. Giving parents the same freedom within K-12 education is something we should be able to find common ground on.