How Florida’s school choice programs create good citizens

Families, advocates and legislators joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Christ the King Catholic School in Jacksonville last week to celebrate the signing of a sweeping education choice bill that will extend private school opportunity to more students.

Editor’s note: This commentary from John Legg, co-founder and CFO of Dayspring Academy charter school, appeared this morning in the Tampa Bay Times. Legg served as chairman of the Senate K-12 Committee from 2012-16, speaker pro-tempore of the Florida House of Representatives from 2010-12, and chairman of the House K-12 Committee from 2008-10. He is a member of the board of directors for Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog.

Over the years, 11 high-quality research studies have examined the impact of private school choice programs on core democratic values such as political tolerance and civic engagement. According to the meticulous research and advocacy group EdChoice, six found positive impact, five found no impact and none found negative impact.

To some, this is counterintuitive.

Aren’t public schools the place where those values are instilled? How could students who choose private schools become more tolerant, more likely to volunteer for community service, more likely to better grasp basic knowledge about government and politics?

There are many reasons. But I think this is the good that comes when people are afforded the dignity and respect that comes with freedom, especially the freedom to determine the educational destinies of their children.

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