This Sunday the Washington Post profiled some local families who have elected to participate in Maryland’s open enrollment policy that requires “educators to allow families at low-performing schools to transfer not only within but outside their school system.” The Post reports:

Among D.C. families of certain means, the start of high school creates a dilemma: send your child to a flawed neighborhood school, run the gantlet of private school applications and waiting lists, or move? Dozens of families choose yet another option: paying tuition for their children to attend schools in other counties or states under a little-known but nearly universal rule that allows public schools to accept students from other jurisdictions — for a price.

Nonresident tuition rules benefit families who want their children in a neighboring school system — and, in most cases, a specific high school — badly enough to pay. A few families want the convenience of having a child schooled near a parent’s job or access to a unique program such as that at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District. In most cases, though, they are simply buying a better school.

As long time advocates for school choice, The Heritage Foundation is pleased with open enrollment policies. Unfortunately, as the Post points out, only “families of certain means” can afford to pay the $10,000 to $15,000 it costs to send their child to the school of their choice. This is fundamentally unfair and both federal and state governments can do more to bring equal opportunity to K-12 education. Congress could:

  • Expand parental choice in the District of Columbia, where Congress has oversight author­ity over the local public school system. Specifically, Congress should reauthorize the D.C. Choice Incen­tive Act of 2003 and create new school choice options for families living in the nation’s capital.
  • Expand Coverdell Education Savings Accounts to give families greater ability to save for and pay for their children’s K-12 education costs to ensure that they receive a quality education.
  • Reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to restore greater state and local control in educa­tion and to restore parental choice. Specifically, Congress should reform NCLB to allow states to enter into charter agreements with the U.S. Department of Education to give states greater authority to decide how federal funds for educa­tion are spent. At a minimum, the law’s existing parental choice options should be strengthened.

State governments could:

  • Enact education reforms that give families greater school choice options, including pri­vate school choice programs like tuition scholar­ships and education tax credits.
  • Expand parental choice within the public edu­cation system by enacting strong public school options, enacting strong public charter school laws to promote more charter school options, and offering innovative learning options such as distance learning and virtual education.
  • Expand education savings options for families by offering taxpayers the same incentives for K- 12 education as are currently available for post-secondary education.