RAINEY: Worried About Crime? Embrace School Choice

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Norton Rainey Contributor
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As Election Day nears, politicians across the country must convince voters they have solutions that will ease voter concerns about crime and violence in their communities. A recent Gallup survey found that 53 percent of voters said they felt a “great deal” of concern about crime and violence, second only to inflation at 55 percent.

While much of the focus will be on solutions like more and better trained police and second chances for formerly incarcerated men and women, lawmakers should remember that school choice opportunities are proven to lower crime rates, giving students — especially those from lower-income families — access to better opportunities that help them avoid crime.

Studies have found that students with access to school choice are less likely to commit crimes. Ninth-grade students enrolled in North Carolina charter schools experienced a 36 percent decrease in felony convictions saw a 38 percent decrease in misdemeanor convictions as adults compared to their public school peers. Two other studies found that students in the Milwaukee voucher program had a lower chance of engaging in crime between ages 22 and 28 than their public school counterparts.

Researchers consistently find that individuals with higher levels of educational attainment are less likely to engage in criminal activity. The higher wages that come with higher education levels reduce the economic incentives to commit crimes, and both being in school and working a steady job lessen the opportunity for crime.

Beyond educational attainment, schools play a crucial role in socializing children. Participating in school activities fosters a sense of social connectedness and belonging that has been shown to reduce the likelihood of crime. School choice exposes students to more opportunities. For instance, a student with a passion for welding could attend a private school with a state-of-the-art manufacturing shop and welding club instead of their local public school, gaining access to both a lifelong skill and a peer group with the same passion.

Social capital — the relationships collected along one’s life path — provides students with resources and support, such as business contacts, insider knowledge, encouragement, a sense of belonging, and future job opportunities. Josiah, a remarkable ACE scholarship recipient, is a testament the fact that socialization and community are integral to success. Josiah’s father died when Josiah was ten years old. On his deathbed, his father asked Josiah’s mother to ensure their children attended a top-notch school. After his father’s passing, Josiah’s family moved into a small apartment, and his mother struggled to find suitable educational opportunities for her children.

Many in Josiah’s situation would have crumbled under the financial and emotional weight of their situation and given up on a bright future. But an ACE Scholarship to attend Little Rock Christian Academy provided Josiah the hope and opportunity he needed. There, Josiah found more than just an education; he found a community that embraced and mentored him. A reserved child, Josiah grew into a confident leader, excelling academically and serving as the student body president. Josiah is now a freshman studying ministry leadership and nonprofit work at Oral Roberts University, showing how high-quality education and community can be a springboard to success.

Like Josiah, thousands of Utah school children are about to receive a first chance to choose the best educational environment for their individual needs. The Utah State Legislature recently passed an educational savings account (ESA) bill that will give 10,000 parents access to $8,000 in an ESA to spend on the best options for their children, whether that is a private school, microschool, homeschooling, or other options.

Last month, six Democrats in the Louisiana House of Representatives bucked the party line to help pass a universal school choice bill that would distribute ESAs to Louisiana children who want to opt out of their assigned public school. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration. If enacted, the bill could help reverse the state’s failing education outcomes and launch Louisiana students into successful lives, significantly reducing crime and boosting the local economy.

State lawmakers would be wise to consider how school choice programs can provide a first chance at a fulfilling and successful life. States like Utah and Louisiana demonstrated bipartisan support is possible. It’s time for more state leaders to come together for their students and pass reforms that give children high-quality educational options that can launch them into successful futures.

Norton Rainey is CEO of ACE Scholarships.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.