School ChoiceWhat’s it all about?
What does it mean for you?
Arguments in Favor
FYI: Further Reading
What’s it all about?
- “School choice” essentially means that a child can attend any school, regardless of location or family income.
- There are three different areas of school choice:
* The following information is taken from The Friedman Foundation.
A certificate issued by the government by which parents can pay for education for their child at another school instead of the public school that was assigned to them.
- Universal Voucher Programs
All children are eligible.
- Means-Tested Voucher Programs
Children from families below a defined income level are eligible.
- Failing Schools, Failing Students Voucher Programs
Children who are performing poorly in public school or who are attending failing public schools are eligible.
- Special Needs Voucher Programs
Children identified as having special educational needs are eligible.
- Pre-Kindergarten Voucher Programs
Children in pre-kindergarten programs are eligible.
- Town Tuitioning Programs
Children who live in towns that do not operate public schools at their grade levels are eligible. In a few cases the town picks the schools to which its students will be tuitioned, but usually the choice of the school is left to parents.
- Universal Voucher Programs
Individuals and/or corporations get a tax credit for making donations to private charitable organizations, which use the money to fund scholarships for students.
- Personal Tax Credits and Deductions
Parents can receive tax deductions for approved educational expenses that might be incurred at a private school.
What does it mean for you?
- As of August 2008, school vouchers have only been implemented in about seven states or school districts including Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, Florida, Maine, Vermont, Utah and the District of Columbia. They are used most often in underperforming school districts to serve low-income families.
Arguments in Favor:
- Parents have greater control and influence over their child’s education because they can choose the school that best serves their educational interests.
- Promotes greater economic diversity in schools because children living in underadvantaged school districts have greater access to high-performing school districts.
- The system promotes “free market” policies by which all schools are competing for students and must be more responsive to parents’ and students’ interests.
- Leaving the education system up to the “free market” is against the democratic ideal that all children have access to an equal and excellent education since “competition” implies that not all schools provide equal services.
- Some argue that school choice leads to a shifting of funds from one public school to another without addressing the true problems of poorly performing schools.
- While “school choice” refers to mobility, “school vouchers” refer to funding, most often for private schools. Therefore, the entire argument for school vouchers is based on the idea that private schools offer a better education – a fact that has not yet been proven empirically. Public schools often perform just as well or better on standardized tests as private schools.
- School vouchers take away funding and support from public schools while still not ensuring that students will have enough money to attend a private school.
- In practice, much of the money for vouchers has been given to children who are already enrolled in private schools in many areas of the country. In addition, most school voucher money, which comes from taxes, has been used to provide a religious education for children – a violation of the separation of church and state.
- School choice and vouchers are just another aspect of bureaucratic inefficiency that has already plagued the U.S. public school system for decades.
FYI: Further Reading
- The Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit nonpartisan coalition of 49 states and the District of Columbia seeking to promote school improvement, devotes a section of its website to the school choice issue. They provide a general overview of school choice options as well as a page with a balanced list of pros and cons and. They also have information about charter schools here.
- The PBS documentary, “The Battle over School Choice,” has a featured website that gives a balanced case for and against school choice, including links to outside articles that provide more information.
- The Alliance for School Choice is the nation’s largest organization promoting and implementing school choice. They provide a myriad of resources on their website that highlight the advantages of school choice reform, including school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.
- The Alliance for the Separation of School and State is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that strongly supports school choice and educating parents about the dangers of state-sponsored schools. They list a variety of reasons against state-funded public education.
- The Cato Institute: Center for Educational Freedom argues that government-run schools are tantamount to a monopoly. They support competitive independent private schools as a better alternative.
- The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a nonprofit organization based in Ohio that firmly believes that every child should receive the highest quality education at the school of his or her choice. They provide a series of articles written by members, all clearly in support of “schools choice.”
- The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is an organization that has been advocating for school choice for more than 40 years. They provide helpful information about exactly what “school choice” means, as well as many arguments in support of the issue.
- The Citizen’s Guide to Educational Reform: School Choices is a website with a clear bias in favor of school choice; however they also provide research from each side of the issue.
- The Center for Education Reform is a nonprofit that challenges the status quo in the public school system and seeks to promote school choice and charter schools. The section of their website on school choice is very informative and includes research and information for parents who want to take advantage of the school choice options in their state.
- The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit civil liberties law firm that is leading the fight for school choice in our nation’s court rooms. They have information on their website about current and ongoing cases related to school choice. It is an excellent resource when looking at the debate from a legal perspective.
- The American Federation of Teachers is somewhat in favor of school choice and vouchers as long as they do not utilize public money. The AFT maintains that money for public schools is scarce as it is and should not be directed to pay for some students to attend private school.
- National Education Association: School Vouchers provides a list of cases against private school tuition vouchers, examining the issue from a variety of angles.
- School Choice and Social Controversy: Politics, Policy, and Law takes a look at the school choice debate from all different angles, including its impact on the teachers unions and the difficulties in funding school choice. This scholarly book can be previewed here.
- Famed political scientist and urban scholar, Paul E. Peterson, has published a book that takes a deeper look into the impact that the school choice movement has already had and what lessons can be gleaned from it for the future. It does not draw heavily on the debate, but assumes that school choice is a worthwhile endeavor that can be replicated on a wider basis.
- Be Counted Poll http://www.teacherscount.org/poll/results/poll15.shtml
For opinions from our readers, see following poll on school vouchers: