The Year of School Choice?
The following is a guest post by Commonwealth Foundation Research Fellow Cara Dochat:
Hats are off to Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Indiana, and a round of applause rings for Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma. They are among the 13 states which have successfully initiated and expanded school choice legislation so far this year.
Freedom in education has garnered so much national momentum that 2011 has been tentatively dubbed “the year of school choice” by The Wall Street Journal.
But Pennsylvania has yet to make the grade: it is among the 28 states with school choice legislation still pending. And with the future of students in Pennsylvania’s 144 “failing schools” hanging in the balance, school choice reform must be top priority when the state legislature returns in the fall.
To date, multiple states have focused on providing additional opportunities for children with special learning needs, including North Carolina, where parents will be able to claim a tax credit for private school tuition and other educational expenses.
Ohio’s multi-faceted reform triples the number of students eligible for vouchers. A new program provides up to 90% public-school cost to students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and two scholarship programs for students in failing schools have been substantially expanded.
Reforms in Indiana make nearly half of its students eligible for public or private school vouchers.
While some students in Pennsylvania will spend their summers in fear of returning to violent or underperforming schools this September, newly-eligible students in Ohio will be applying for scholarships and vouchers thanks to an extended summer application period allowance there.
The Pennsylvania legislature owes it to the state’s children to take up the banner of choice next session, refusing to allow another year to go by in which families plead for choice and students plead for education.