Kennesaw State study: School choice boosts HS grad rates, especially for Black students

An analysis from Kennesaw State University showed that high school graduation and college entrance rates rose by 20 percent under a Georgia school choice program.

The results were even more beneficial for Black, Hispanic, and impoverished students.

An analysis from Kennesaw State University showed that high school graduation rates rose by 20 percent under Georgia’s school choice program.

The analysis by Benjamin Scafidi and Heidi Holmes Erickson of Kennesaw State University studied the effects of Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense (QEE) Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The initiative allows taxpayers to receive a Georgia income tax credit for donating to nonprofit student scholarship organizations. 

The funds from these organizations are used for scholarships to Georgia students in order to offset the cost of attending private schools.

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The Kennesaw State analysis used data from students who received scholarships from Georgia GOAL, the largest scholarship-providing organization in the QEE program.

Among other findings, the analysis discovered that the “taxpayer cost of tax credit scholarships is significantly less than the taxpayer cost of educating scholarship students in the public schools — saving taxpayers a total of $53.2 million in academic year 2018-19.”

High school graduation rates also rose substantially: students “graduate high school and enter college at higher rates relative to students in Georgia public schools” under the program, according to the analysis.

Likewise, participating students exhibited significantly higher college entrance rates.

High school graduation and college entrance rates rose precipitously for African-American and Hispanic students. African-American graduation rates increased by 18 percent, and college entrance rates rose by 20 percent. 

The results were even stronger for Hispanic students, with graduation rates rising by 22 percent and college enrollment rates rising by 29 percent.

Similar effects existed across economic lines: participating students receiving free or reduced lunches experienced significantly higher graduation and matriculation rates than public school students.

Scafidi told Campus Reform that other states should implement similar school choice programs since they “have a great track record at providing benefits to students who exercise choice and even modest benefits for students who remain in public schools.” 

However, “highly regulated choice programs, like Louisiana’s scholarship program, do not.”

Scafidi added that “employees and leaders of public schools are powerful opponents of giving parents more choice in education.” He explained that they are organized through unions, they have access to funding, and they are able to influence the vote.

“For at least 70 years, public schools have had a massive staffing surge — hiring more and more employees than needed to keep up with enrollment growth — which gives them even more power to oppose reforms to the current K-12 education system,” said Scafidi.

Corey DeAngelis, Director of School Choice at the Reason Foundation, told Campus Reform that “private schools are directly accountable to families,” and “private schools that underperform shape up or shut down.” 

”District schools that underperform get more money,” he added. 

DeAngelis remarked that “so many people that support funding students directly when it comes to Pell Grants for higher education and taxpayer-funded pre-K programs oppose it when it comes to K-12 education. Why would anyone support funding students directly when it comes to higher education and pre-K but not K-12? The answer is simple: the power dynamics differ.”

He explained that “the norm when it comes to higher education and preschool is that families already have a high degree of choice. The norm when it comes to K-12 education is that an entrenched special interest profits from getting your children’s education dollars regardless of your choice.”

“The public school monopoly fights really hard to prevent families from having the choice to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere,” he added. “The reality, however, is that there aren’t any good reasons to fund institutions when we can fund students directly instead. After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating students — not for protecting a government monopoly.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft