Democrats have long touted themselves as the party of choice, but Republicans are giving them a run for the title when it comes to education. With large Republican majorities across the country, educational choice has become a hot topic.

The Economist reports:

Pro choice

ON THE desk of Zeus Rodriguez, the president of St Anthony School in Milwaukee, a mini Republican primary is underway. A signed photograph of Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, competes for space with snaps of Rand Paul and Jeb Bush—all three of them presidential hopefuls. St Anthony’s is popular among conservatives because it has more pupils taking advantage of government-funded vouchers than any other private school in America.

The local neighbourhood was once populated by German and Polish Catholics but is now home to the Hispanic sort. Almost all pupils speak Spanish at home; most are also poor. Yet 95% of the first two classes of high-school students from St Anthony’s have graduated and more than 90% have gone on to college. All this, for a cost to taxpayers of just $7,500 per pupil; Milwaukee’s public schools, by contrast, spend a whopping $13,000.

After the Republicans’ success in state elections in November, several are pushing to increase the number and scope of school voucher schemes. In a budget unveiled on February 3rd, Governor Walker called for the expansion of Wisconsin’s three voucher schemes, though he left the details fuzzy. In each of the 24 states that have vouchers, lawmakers propose to make more children eligible, says Robert Enlow of the Friedman Foundation, which advocates for school choice. Illinois and Nevada, which do not have vouchers, are considering them. George P. Bush (son of Jeb), recently argued for their introduction to Texas, where he is land commissioner.

All told, 10% of American children attend some form of private school. Pupils at such schools are typically well off, but most of the change is taking place lower down, thanks to vouchers aimed at poor kids in awful public schools. If these programmes are expanded, America will look a bit more like Japan or the Netherlands, where private schools serve lots of hard-up families (see chart) and children do better in exams than Americans.

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Pro choice (The Economist)