US students start school year with ‘massive gains’ in school choice

Millions of school children across the United States are starting the school year with more access to school choice than ever after hard-fought victories in courtrooms, state legislatures and at the ballot box.

Arizona, which has a long heritage of educational freedom, is leading the way. The state has introduced policies that expand school choice, including college savings accounts, state-supported private scholarships, a growing charter school sector, and an enrollment policy. flourishing open.

Arizona scored another historic victory for school choice last month when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed off on a massive expansion of the state’s private voucher system despite threats from public school advocates to block the bill and to pressure voters to have it overturned in November’s general election.


The expansion allows every parent in Arizona to take the money the state sends to the K-12 public school system and use it for their children’s tuition or other expenses. of education. All of Arizona’s 1.1 million students who attend traditional public schools are qualified to leave their public school and get money to go to private school. An estimated 60,000 private school students and about 38,000 homeschooled children are immediately eligible to receive up to $7,000 per year.

For Susan Cleary, this is good news.

The owner of the store in Scottsdale, Arizona, told the Washington Examiner this school choice was one of the reasons she insisted that her daughter and two school-aged grandsons leave California for the desert.

“They don’t learn anything there,” she told the Washington Examiner in July. “They are taught to hate themselves, to hate their families and to say that Jesus did not exist. We are ‘one nation under God.’ parents to decide what to teach their children.

Cleary’s comments resonate with dozens of parents across the country looking for something new.

“School choice” is an umbrella term used to describe the movement to expand alternatives to traditional public schools, which include charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, open-enrollment schools, learning online, home schooling or other learning environments chosen by a family.

While school choice has been around for nearly 150 years—Vermont’s municipal schooling program began serving families in 1869—the modern movement began in the early 1990s. In 1991, Wisconsin became the first state to create a modern school voucher program. That same year, Minnesota became the first state to create a law allowing charter schools. City Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the first publicly funded private charter school, opened in 1992.

Since then, there has been an outpouring of support, bolstered by former President Donald Trump, as well as then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has become a hero for school choice advocates. school and a villain for traditional supporters of public schools.

Last year, 19 states enacted 32 new or expanded school choice policies, making 2021 “the year of school choice.” Today, a total of 21 states and Washington, DC, offer school choice programs that provide parents with financial assistance and private school options.

The momentum accelerated, and in 2022 several states passed policies that allowed parents to withdraw their children from traditional public schools and weigh other options, such as charter schools (public schools with no tuition fees managed independently), Education Savings Accounts (state – supervised funds that parents can use to pay for a selection of education options), Learning Modules (a small group of children organized by parents who come together to learn and socialize) and open enrollment (allowing students to go to another school district if there is space).

There are currently about 7,700 charter schools in the United States serving about 3.6 million students, according to
. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing charter schools to be established, and the number of students attending these schools has more than doubled in a decade. Magnet schools, which allow students to focus on a specific learning track, have also developed. There are currently over 4,000 operating in the country.

Private schools are also available in each state, but charge tuition. Thirty states now offer programs that make scholarships or tuition assistance available to families. Of the 30 states, 21 offer an official scholarship program. Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina offer both scholarship and state deduction programs, reported. .


Virtual learning is always a popular choice for families. About 375,000 K-12 students attended a full-time online school in 2019-20. The number jumped to 656,000 for the 2020-2021 school year. The figures for the 2022-2023 school year are not yet known.

“These are huge wins for American families, but proponents of school choice shouldn’t let their understandable euphoria turn into complacency,” said Jason Bedrick, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy. “Defenders of the status quo are vigorously mounting a counteroffensive to delay, stall and reverse choice reforms. We have entered the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ phase of the school choice struggle.”

In July, a West Virginia judge struck down a law that would have channeled state money into a program that incentivized families to pull their children out of public schools. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit ruled that the Hope Scholarship Voucher Program violated the state’s constitutional mandate to provide “a comprehensive and effective system of free schools.” The voucher program was supposed to go into effect this school year, and more than 3,000 students had been approved to receive about $4,300 each during the program’s inaugural cycle.


Dale Lee, president of West Virginia’s largest teachers’ union, told the Associated press that parents have the right to choose whether they want their children to be homeschooled or send them to a private school, but that the state should not use taxpayers’ money to fund it.

“It’s one thing to allow parents to choose where to educate their children, but it’s quite another when we divert them from our public schools with public money as an incentive.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey appealed. The case is expected to go to the state’s new intermediate appeals court, but could end up in the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Despite the growth of school choice in several states, some public school teachers Washington Examiner spoken in Virginia, Florida and Georgia described it as nothing but a veiled attempt to take money out of public schools and put it into private schools that can select and reject applicants based on the color of their skin, gender, religious beliefs and affiliations.

Opponents also argue that Republican-led legislatures pushed through bills to expand charter schools and voucher programs during the COVID-19 pandemic without putting safeguards in place to ensure that students, their families and taxpayers are protected against “discrimination, corruption and fraud”. which have sometimes tarnished alternative schooling options.


They also point to disturbing figures. For example, seven states are publicly funding home schools with little or no checks on teaching quality or tracking student progress, according to a report by the Network for Public Education, an advocacy group that supports public schools. traditionally funded. Nineteen states do not require voucher school teachers to be certified, while 26 states do not require voucher students to take the same state tests as their public and charter school peers.

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