School choice is making headlines in multiple states this spring. Several have approved or are considering proposals to expand educational opportunity for families.
Texas is going bold by introducing multiple school choice proposals. Heritage’s Lindsey Burke explains that these include:
an elimination of the cap on charter schools (only 215 are currently allowed to operate), creation of special needs scholarships to allow children with disabilities to attend private schools of choice, and a tuition tax credit program that would provide tax credits to businesses that donate to nonprofits that provide vouchers to low-income children to attend private schools.
Texas State Senator Dan Patrick (R–Houston), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, noted that “several hundred thousand students are stuck in low-performing schools today. This should not be acceptable to anyone.” Patrick says school choice would give opportunities to families to find “the best educational options for their children.”
Also down south, Alabama made a surprise and historic move by passing its first private school choice program earlier this month. Governor Robert Bentley (R) called it “the most significant piece of legislation that’s been passed in this Legislature in years.” Families, individuals, and corporations will be able to receive tax credits for donating to scholarship-granting organizations. Children in failing schools will be able to apply to receive the scholarships, allowing them to attend a private school of choice.
A little further north, Tennessee is considering a voucher program for low-income students in underperforming schools. The program would be limited to children who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch and attend the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools. Initially, the program would cap vouchers at 5,000 students, but would expand that to 20,000 by the 2016–2017 school year.
Besides the proposals, school choice won a victory in the courts last week, when the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Choice Scholarship Program, put in place in 2011. Burke explains:
Indiana’s highest court ruled unanimously in Meredith v. Pence that the Choice Scholarship Program (CSP), which provides vouchers to low-income and middle-income families in the Hoosier State, is constitutional. The suit, brought by the teachers unions, sought to end the country’s largest and most inclusive school voucher program.
As the Institute for Justice’s Ben Gall notes, this victory “solidifie[s] the growing body of case law supporting school choice and expose[s] the flaws in the teachers’ unions’ favorite legal claims.”
Organizations are also popping up to empower families to make the best decisions about where to send their children. The Education Consumers Foundation, for example, is “dedicated exclusively to serving the interests of education’s consumers.” It empowers parents by giving them the information they need about school performance, better enabling them to choose the best school for their child.
Empowering parents through choice means greater opportunity for children. School choice victories are, first and foremost, victories for children, giving families the opportunity to choose the schools that best meet their children’s needs.