This argument fails to recognize the fact that wealthier families already exercise school choice:  They move to a "good" public school district or they can afford to pay for their children's education twice—once in taxes for the government schools they do not use and again in tuition for the alternative schools they do use.  Low-income families want school choice more than the wealthy for simple reasons.  Poor students are often assigned to worse government schools than students from wealthy neighborhoods, and poor families do not have the means to exercise other options.  Easing the financial penalties imposed on parents who want more options allows everyone—wealthy or poor—to exercise the basic right of school choice. 

The Facts:

  • The wealthy choose public schools for their children.  According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 81 percent of families with incomes over $75,000 choose public schools for their children, while only 32 percent of private school families earn such incomes.[128]  The reality is that the wealthy already have school choice—and they choose public schools far more often than private schools.

  • Minorities and poor families want school choice, too.  Thousands of children whose parents pay little or no taxes are on waiting lists for private schools and scholarships.  According to a survey conducted by Michigan State University, citizens with household incomes under $19,000 per year are the most likely to favor charter schools (73.3 percent) and scholarships paid for with "public" money (66.4 percent).  In addition, Michigan residents who are black or live in an urban community favor greater school choice more than any ethnic group or region of the state.[129]

  • Inner-city parents want school choice more than anyone else.  A September 1997 poll conducted by the Lansing firm Marketing Resource Group found that 64 percent of the 600 Michigan citizens surveyed supported full parental school choice.  The percentage increased in the larger cities—75 percent of Detroit residents surveyed favor school choice.[130]  A February 1999 poll by the Detroit Free Press of 502 Detroit voters revealed that large majorities favor vouchers (65 percent) and tuition tax credits (77 percent).[131]

  • School choice is a civil right.  According to the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, "Choice is a civil right, as basic as democracy, because it lets families vote with their feet on the best school for their child.  Poor families want the same dignity that wealthy families have long enjoyed: the ability to obtain a quality education for their child, even if they have to go to an independent school to get it.  It is an injustice that our present system denies our children an equal opportunity for a quality education and our democracy is paying the price."[132]



[128]       Michigan Education Report, "Painting the private school picture", Fall 2000.  Available on the Internet at www.educationreport.org/article.asp?ID=2890.

[129]       Sandra Vergari and Michael Mintrom, "Public Opinion on K-12 Education in Michigan," Michigan State of the State Survey, Briefing Paper 98-36, May 1998.

[130]      Cited in "Empowering Parents To Drive Education Reform," Council of Baptist Pastors, p. 11.

[131]      "Detroit Public Schools poll," Detroit Free Press, 6 February 1999.

[132]       Ibid., p. 9.

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