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Thursday, February 01, 2007

"A Tide for School Choice"

"The public school lobby, which apparently has little confidence in its product, lives in fear of competition -- the fear that if parents' choices are expanded, there will be a flight from public schools. But the tide is turning…"

George Will writes today about “A Tide for School Choice.” Despite constant push back from very vocal opponents, school choice programs across the country are succeeding and providing educational opportunities to thousands of families. Mr. Will notes that in Arizona, “More than 22,500 children have benefited from the program in a decade. Thousands of families are on waiting lists for scholarships because 600 Arizona schools have failed to meet federal academic requirements.

In light of the success of the program in Arizona, the legislature is attempting to expand the program to give choices to even more families, yet opponents stand once again ready to head to court to try and prevent this, using the same arguments they’ve been using (and losing with) for years.

Doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results is a sign of insanity, but what really defines the plaintiffs is banality. This is about the control of schools by bureaucrats, about work rules negotiated by unions and, not least, about money -- not allowing any to flow away from the usual channels.

But despite the push back, Mr. Will notes that the tides are indeed turning. He points out that:

  • Newark, NJ: Mayor Cory Booker, proposed a scholarship program similar to the plan in Arizona that would provide $20 million in tax credits to New Jersey corporations fpr donations to provide scholarships for low-income students in 5 cities with especially troubled schools.
  • New Your: Governor Eliot L. Spitzer, a Democrat, has proposed lifting the cap on charter schools (currently capped at 100 for the entire state)
  • New York, NY: Mayor Michael Bloomburg isdividing large schools into smaller ones, emancipating many principals to be educational entrepreneurs under a system that holds them accountable for cognitive results. The logic is that public money should follow wherever students are attracted by competing schools. So school choice is gaining ground in the city that has historically been ground zero for collectivist, centralizing liberalism."

Here in Virginia, yesterday the House Finance Committee voted to approve HB1843, a tuition tax credit bill that would set up a program similar to Arizona and Pennsylvania (and similar to the proposed Newark plan), that would provide educational choice for Virginia’s families through privately funded scholarships for use in public, private or home-schools. The bill, which was previously approved by the House of Delegates last year, now goes to the full House again for a vote. To learn more, see here.

(This is a cross-post from our AFP-VA blog)

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