National School Choice Week: Cause for Celebration

Jan 31, 2016 by

By Carole Haynes –

National School Choice Week has been kicked off with more than 16,000 events planned across the nation. This week the Friedman Foundation also released its 2016 edition of The ABCs of School Choice with details about every school choice program in the U.S.

Since the first private school voucher program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1991, there have dramatic gains throughout the nation in education choice. Today there are more than 56 private school programs in 28 states and Washington, D.C. More than 350,000 students are enrolled in private school choice programs, an increase of 257,282 from 2004-2014.

Five states have enacted education savings accounts with Arizona being the first in 2011. Nevada enacted the nation’s first universal ESA in 2015 by offering it to all families rather than limiting the availability to specific subsets of parents. Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi also offer ESAs.

In an ESA program, parents can withdraw their child from a public district or charter school and then use state funds that have been placed into a government authorized savings account with restricted but multiple uses. The money can be used for private school tuition and fees, online learning, curriculum, private tutoring, therapy for students with special needs, and other approved services. Families can even roll over unused funds from year to year and also can roll funds into a college savings account.

In a meta-analysis of existing school choice literature, researcher Greg Forster found that out of 12 empirical analyses employing random assignment methodology, 11 showed improved academic outcomes with one finding no impact. Forster also found that out of 23 evaluations of the impact of school choice on public schools, 22 found improved educational outcomes for students in schools faced with competition from school choice. Only one study found no impact. Out of six empirical studies on the fiscal impact for taxpayers, all six showed taxpayer savings.

In a Sunday interview on WFAA-TV, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said that one of his highest priorities for the next legislative session is to pass a school choice bill. He believes Texas will do something similar to the Nevada ESA program. He explained that the Texas education budget is comprised of 50 percent local money and 50 percent state money. If a child withdraws from the local district school, the school keeps its 50 percent of the money and the parents use the 50 percent from the state to pay for another education option for their child.

As National School Week is celebrated across the nation, here’s hoping the programs being considered in other states will come to fruition, allowing thousands of families to enjoy the benefits of personal decision making for their children’s education.

Heck, we might even see anti-choice blocks in the Texas House put aside in favor of enacting legislation that has been proven to be the best choice for children.

Source: National School Choice Week: Cause for Celebration | Education Reform | NCPA.org

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