School Choice: Polluting Our Planet?

A new study published in Environment Science and Technology analyzes the environmental impact of school choice policies in St. Paul, Minn. The authors found that eliminating school choice would lower emissions rates 3 to 8 times and curb the "significant environmental consequences" of providing more educational opportunities for children.

The authors arrive at their conclusion by analyzing the travel patterns for 803 survey respondents and then applied those findings to the entire St. Paul school district. Students attending the school assigned to them by the state were more likely to walk or have a short commute to school. Students participating in schools of choice programs, however, traveled on average a longer distance to school and thus contributed to the emission of more pollutants into the atmosphere.

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Fortunately, school choice programs can offset these "significant environmental consequences" with significant educational consequences. Nine out of 10 scientific studies link school choice programs to higher student achievement. In fact, a brand new study of the Milwaukee voucher system, which operates on less than half the per-pupil funding of Milwaukee Public Schools, found that participating students are 12 percent more likely to graduate than nonparticipating ones.

The study of St. Paul did not analyze the environmental impact of homeschoolers.