The dirty little secret in education policy is that school choice already exists in the United States: it is just limited to  affluent children. While millions of wealthy families send their children to private schools every year, families with less are often forced to send their children to schools they don’t trust (for example while only 12% of American school children attend private schools, 45% of Senators have sent their children to private schools). But many middle class families find other ways to choose schools, like buying a house in a neighborhood in the right school district. Their children may end up going to public school, but in reality they have exercised control over their children’s education options in a way most families can not. But this method leaves families vulnerable to the vagaries of politics as witnessed in Virginia last week.

Last Thursday, The Washington Post detailed the story of the Mannava family who bought a house in a neighborhood called Fox Mill Estates after carefully analyzing which northern Virginia school district was best for their children. But now, three years later, the Fairfax County School Board approved new boundaries for several high schools essentially nullifying the choice the Mannava’s made for their children. Carly Mannava told the Post: “Do we move? Private School? I’m scared to death.”

More and more families are growing tired of government’s monopoly on education and are pushing their state governments to adopt policies that give them the freedom to educate their children as they see fit. The Heritage Foundation has a new website “School Choices: Choices in Education” that helps parents track education reforms in all 50 states. Particularly encouraging are expanded school choice options in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont, and Washington, DC.

Studies show that families who participate in school choice programs are very satisfied with their children’s chosen schools. Furthermore, studies also show that the effects of increased competition from school choice programs produce positive performance gains in surrounding public schools as well.

Quick Hits:

  • House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) hinted Sunday at a compromise that would provide immunity to phone companies that cooperated with U.S. intelligence after 9/11.
  • According to the New York Times, ambitious Democrat health care plans for the uninsured ignore “a more immediate challenge” from “the soaring costs of Medicare and Medicaid” that account for more than 23% of federal spending now and will account for more than 30% of federal spending in 10 years.
  • President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela mobilized tank units and fighter jets to the Colombian border after Colombian forces killed a senior Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader at a jungle camp in Ecuador.
  • Last Monday, the chief United Nations nuclear inspector laid out a trove of evidence that he said raised new questions about whether Iran had tried to design an atom bomb.
  • Under pressure from domestic new car dealers, Mexico has banned importation of all cars not made in 1998.