Tuesday, May 13, 2014


How Far School Choice Policies Have Come in Two DecadeS
Heritage – Lindsey Burke – 5/12/2014

It’s amazing how far school choice options have come in a little more than two decades. From Milwaukee’s first-in-the-nation school voucher option in 1990 and the first charter school opening its doors in Minnesota in 1992, parental choice in education has advanced considerably, and innovation in school choice policy has taken shape in ways that were inconceivable in those early years. Today, 39 private school choice programs operate in 18 states and Washington, D.C.

When it was enacted in 2011, the Arizona ESA option was available only to children with special needs. Every year since has brought expansions to the program. Today, children with special needs as well as children from active duty military families, children of fallen soldiers, children in Arizona’s foster care system and children from low-income families assigned to underperforming public schools are eligible for the accounts.

Just as parents have looked to one another in the ESA program for advice about what works well for their children, so too have states begun to take cues from one another, replicating the most promising policy innovations. Last week, the Florida legislature passed legislation to create the Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts—the Sunshine State’s version of ESAs. Florida would become the second state to embrace the most innovative option to date in school choice.

The combination of innovative education financing models such as ESAs, in conjunction with the growth of online learning, allows for education options that are truly customized and student-centered and are a far cry from the one-size-fits-all public education system. School choice policy has come a long way over the past two decades, and as Arizona’s experience has demonstrated, ESAs are the way of the future as states consider how to bring innovation, competition and choice into their education systems.

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