Las Vegas Sun

October 8, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

School choice plan is a proven success

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Gov. Brian Sandoval recently proposed a tuition tax-credit scholarship program so low-income students attending low-performing public schools can attend a public or private school of the parent’s choice. A recent column by Dr. Sonya Douglas Horsford called this a “noncomprehensive, nontransformational idea.”

The only thing “noncomprehensive” about Gov. Sandoval’s proposal is that it will be limited to a small but needy segment of the Silver State’s student population. As for “nontransformational,” Horsford couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, nine out of 10 random-assignment studies on school-choice programs show statistically significant benefits for participating students. Opponents of choice scholarship programs cannot point to one single random-assignment study demonstrating that students are hurt when given scholarships to attend private schools.

Ironically, Horsford’s biggest concern is how to measure whether a scholarship program would succeed. She makes no mention of how we don’t measure the impact of the more than $4 billion annual spending on K-12 education in Nevada.

But Horsford need not worry. There is an easy and inexpensive solution to measuring the impact of school choice without mandating statewide standardized tests. The solution simply requires testing a random selection of students who applied for and won a choice scholarship (the treatment group) and those who applied but did not win a scholarship (the control group). Such studies have been conducted by researchers from Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and most recently by Patrick Wolf at the University of Arkansas.

The author is a research fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

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