Waiting lists are one sign of the desirability of school choice. Graduation rates are another, and they seem to rise in tandem.
In Washington, D.C., the “waiting list for students in the DC area for charter schools was 20,000 students,” first-term U.S. Senator Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, pointed out in some brief remarks to kick off National School Choice Week at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He compared D.C. public schools to charter schools in the nation’s capital: “About 56% of students graduate [from DCPS]. When you go to an Opportunity Scholarship Program [OSP, also known as a charter school] school, about 90% are graduating.” “There is a substantial delineation,” Scott said, “between schools that are succeeding and schools that are not succeeding.”
He compared school choice with exorbitant federal education spending, “We’re spending record amounts on education; we are not reaping record-breaking performances.” Scott told the audience, “It is absolutely paramount that we act and that we act now” because “it’s not fair to our kids, it’s not fair to their parents.”
He firmly believes that “school choice is a leap, not a step, but a leap in the right direction.” Scott said, “This journey is not about the numbers; it’s about the people, it’s about the children.” He added that school choice should include parochial schools, in order to give parents and students “as much flexibility as possible” in weighing their options.
Scott himself grew up in a single-parent household in a poorer part of Charleston. “My academic struggles led me to see the power of education” and “no matter their zip code, family income, ethnic background,” Americans need better education.
He said, “The truth of the matter is, access to quality education is a must” for low-income families in poorer neighborhoods. Scott remembered that when he was a high school freshman, he failed civics, and joked, “I am the only United States senator to ever fail civics.”