2011 is ‘year of school choice’

Republican electoral gains have made 2011 The Year of School Choice, writes the Wall Street Journal.

No fewer than 13 states have enacted school choice legislation in 2011, and 28 states have legislation pending. Last month alone, Louisiana enhanced its state income tax break for private school tuition; Ohio tripled the number of students eligible for school vouchers; and North Carolina passed a law letting parents of students with special needs claim a tax credit for expenses related to private school tuition and other educational services.

Wisconsin removed the cap of 22,500 on the number of kids who can participate in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, the nation’s oldest voucher program, and expanded school choice in Racine County.

Even more significant, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation that removes the charter cap, allows all universities to be charter authorizers, and creates a voucher program that enables about half the state’s students to attend public or private schools.

Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma have created or expanded tuition tax credit programs. North Carolina and Tennessee eliminated caps on the number of charter schools. Maine passed its first charter law. Colorado created a voucher program in Douglas County that will provide scholarships for private schools. In Utah, lawmakers passed the Statewide Online Education Program, which allows high school students to access course work on the Internet from public or private schools anywhere in the state.

Pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, Congress revived the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher program for low-income students.

Choice doesn’t guarantee excellent schools, the Journal concedes. But it drives reform by eroding “the union-dominated monopoly that assigns children to schools based on where they live.”

I’ll be very interested to see what happens in Indiana.

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