••• Education •••

A reminder that low-income students perform better in private schools

The eleventh annual National School Choice Week is a perfect time to serve as a reminder that private schools do a better job of getting low-income students college/career ready than public schools. As KPI has shown in previous years, a much higher percentage of students attending parochial schools in Kansas urban areas scored more college/career ready on the Kansas state assessment than those in public schools.

The table below shows the stark differences between the parochial and public schools on the Kansas state assessments in Wichita, Kansas City, Dodge City, Salina and Topeka. Students of each diocese (plus Topeka Lutheran) not only score much higher than their public-school counterparts, each exceeds the state averages in both math and English language arts (ELA). (Note: due to COVID-19, no state assessments were given in 2020.)

The following table is an indicator of how well those parochial schools educate students compared to the entire state.

It is important to note that this data reflects the achievement of low-income students and not those of the entire student population. What makes these results even more impressive for the private schools is that they do not get any at-risk money as the public schools do. Statewide, free-lunch students generate more than $400 million each year in at-risk funding to the public schools.

This is a particularly pivotal year for school choice. First, the pandemic has led thousands of Kansas families to choose alternatives to traditional public school building enrollment. Clearly, the demand for school choice exists. Secondly, with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Espinoza v. Montana last summer, the door has been opened to providing public money to private schools, even parochial. Espinoza has the potential to go a long way in dismantling the so-called Blaine amendments in states’ constitutions. Thirty-seven states, including Kansas, have adopted variations of Blaine, which prohibits public money from going to religious schools. These laws have come under scrutiny in recent years because the anti-Catholic roots of Blaine have been exposed.

The winds of education change are blowing like those on a spring day across the Kansas prairie. It’s time the Legislature heeds those winds and creates more statewide choice opportunities for students and families. National School Choice Week continues to be a reminder of that.