National School Choice Week

What Are the Prospects for School Choice Gains in 14 States?

If passed, new laws will give parents more control over how their education dollars are spent.

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Fourteen states are considering bills that would allow government funding to follow students wherever they are being taught, giving parents more freedom to choose schools for their kids.

This legislation would permit a portion of the funding that would otherwise go to a student's assigned public school to be used for private tuition as well as for tutoring, textbooks, special-needs therapy, and other approved education expenditures. 

The likelihood of these proposals becoming laws varies greatly from state to state, says Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website. The state legislatures of New Hampshire, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Kansas all have such bills pending. (More here.)

States with Republican-controlled legislatures, such as Missouri and Iowa, are typically more likely to pass school choice laws, DeAngelis tells Reason. Last Thursday, a school choice bill passed 5–4 through the Missouri senate education committee. Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, made school choice reform a major component of her annual Condition of the State Speech. Yet DeAngelis is less optimistic about states controlled by Democrats. 

"It is not going to be serious in all of the states," DeAngelis says. "For example, Oregon and Washington are heavily blue and blue legislators tend to vote against these measures."

Public school administrators have proven resistant to parting with government funding. On Monday, the superintendent of Westside Community Schools in Omaha, Nebraska, tweeted, "State dollars should NOT be used for non-public schools that don't shoulder the same accountability we do and that don't serve ALL kids."

Teachers unions have also traditionally opposed school choice. Union leaders argue these programs work to the detriment of underprivileged students by siphoning funds from the public system, and some go so far as to disparage parents who choose to remove their children from public school.

"It shouldn't be a partisan issue," says DeAngelis. "School choice leads to more equity by allowing less advantaged families to have access to alternative schools that more advantaged families already have access to." 

Research indicates that school choice programs have been overwhelmingly successful in improving student outcomes. A 2019 study by the research organization EdChoice examined three voucher programs and five privately funded scholarship programs across five states. The study found that of "the 16 random-assignment studies examining participant test scores, 11 have found positive outcomes for either the full sample or at least one subsample of students studied." And "three found no visible effect for any group of students, and three found negative outcomes for all or some group of students."

Shutdowns due to COVID-19 have served to bolster the popularity of school choice among voters. "Right now support for school choice is at an all-time high," DeAngelis says. "I think it is because families are seeing that the public school system is just not there for them. Closed buildings are getting to retain their children's education funding."

An August 2020 poll conducted by RealClear Opinion Research and commissioned by the American Federation for Children, a pro–school choice group, shows that 69 percent of those surveyed support school choice, and only 32 percent would select a public school for their child if they had another option. Multiple national polls show that about two-thirds of Americans support school choice.

NEXT: Oregon Weighs Race-Based Vaccine Preferences

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  1. I’m fine with vouchers as long as there is no religious schooling per the Constitution.

    I don’t want to fund Christo-fascists/Islamo-fascists.

    1. You don’t have a job, so stop pretending that you’re funding anyone or anything.

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    4. Where in the constitution does it state that the government can bar religious schools from programs secular schools can apply for? Nowhere, that is where. Try reading it sometime

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    5. There is nothing unconstitutional about letting students/parents use vouchers to attend religious schools. The constitution bans government promotion of one religion. If the vouchers could only be used at Catholic schools, that would be unconstitutional, but allowing them to be used at any private schools – secular or of any religious denomination – is not.

    6. And no critical race theory or equity training either, also wholly religious doctrines not based on evidence or science.

    7. As an atheist I have no problem with my tax dollars being used to pay for religious education if the parents choose it, so long as that education meets state standards (which AFAIK is a requirement for all voucher programs)

      FWIW a friend of mine attended a Catholic school while I went to a public school, his school went an hour longer than mine to accommodate his religion class along with all the same state-mandated curriculum I had.

    8. So you’re saying that the GI Bill (which can be used to attend seminary) is unconstitutional? Where, precisely, does it say that and why, exactly, does the Supreme Court and (ever other 1st Amendment authority) disagree with you?

    9. Yet you have no problem funding public schools who push socialist critical race theory? Today’s socialist left is more ‘fascist’ than any Christian I know.

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    11. There is nothing in the Constitution about religion in schools. Who in the hell put you in charge of what other parents do with their children? Many of them would say they would not be for vouchers unless it was a school based on Christian values. If you want your kids to have the best chance at an education send them to a Christian school and keep them out of the lefty run public schools.

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  3. After demonizing pro-school-choice Trump for four years, and after campaigning for anti-school-choice Biden for the past year, Reason publishes three articles advocating (or attempting to advocate) school choice in 24 hours.

    1. Sedition!

    2. It is not “pro school choice” since that is the current standard.

      It is “pro voucher”.

      1. “”pro school choice”… the current standard.”

        Depends where you’re at I guess. We “stupid fuck rednecks” in Kansas have a fairly large degree of school choice. Those more enlightened folks in places like Chicago and New York City… not so much.

    3. Well, sometimes securing the continued existence of our constitutional republic and rule of law is more important that any single piece of policy.

  4. While Conservative Dennis Prager irrationally disdains atheists, he’s spot on about left wing lunacy and the 2020 elections.
    https://townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/2021/01/26/the-most-important-question-about-the-2020-election-n2583706

    1. So, then, here is the question: Why would anyone who sincerely believed Trump is a white-supremacist fascist dictator not cheat if he or she could prevent such a person from becoming or remaining president of the United States?

      Easy. The same reason I don’t cheat in golf. I am above Trump-level lying and cheating to win.

      1. But not above watching child porn.

      2. you still haven’t paid your bet

  5. Looks like Biden has actually united Americans, as 88% are now
    dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S.
    https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/gallup-americans-satisfaction-capitol-riot/2021/01/26/id/1007245/

  6. What Are the Prospects for School Choice Gains in 14 States?

    Now that your boy is in the White House, poor.

  7. I’m about to commit libertarian heresy here, but I’m skeptical of a school voucher system. While it could theoretically be marginally better than the status quo, there are two main, practical reasons that I think it could end up as a net-negative for liberty.

    I apologize in advance for the Ken-length screed to follow (I jest, Ken. I actually enjoy reading your stuff whenever I get a free couple of hours.)

    First of all, vouchers will likely increase total public funds spent in the education sector. In theory, vouchers would replace funding that goes directly to public schools and put it in the hands of individuals to spend wherever they want. That probably won’t be the case, though. Any funding that ends up being diverted to private/home/alternative schools will likely be replaced by new appropriations to go directly to our beleaguered public schools/teachers unions. Also, K-12 cost inflation will become a real problem as state and federal governments hand out checks; the solution to said inflation will be larger vouchers; the effect of that will be more inflation… For a real-world example, see the federal student loan program.

    Secondly, there’s no quicker way to make private institutions and individuals beholden to the government than to start giving them public monies (directly or indirectly). Voucher’s will have to be redeemed at an “approved” institution, and who is going to be charged with “approving” schools for voucher redemption? Expect private schools to have to start complying with all sorts of new federal and state mandates if John Q Taxpayer is funding a large share of their operations… For a real-world example, see the Fed Dept of Ed, Title IX, and both public and private universities.

    To maximize liberty, we should advocate school choice (private school, home school, charter schools, etc.) However, put the onus/responsibility/accountability on parents. We should absolutely advocate for the disadvantaged to be able to have those choices as well. However, put our money and effort where our mouth is and let private charity and volunteering fill that role. Meanwhile, oppose wasteful public spending in education, and oppose the expansion of the nanny state.

    1. 25 years ago or so, the private, religiously affiliated high school I went to in St. Louis would regularly out-perform all of the adjacent school districts by a significant amount*. At the same time, their cost of educating each student was somewhere between 35% and 45% of what those districts were spending.

      If you allowed even up to half of the public district allocation money to follow the student instead of going to the district, it could open up a lot of opportunities and alternatives for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford that option. It might in fact lower costs.

      *One study showed that a 50th-percentile student (average) at our school would have been an 88th-percentile student at the local public high school.

      1. Yeah, I have no doubt that it would provide opportunities for families to attain much better outcomes. At what cost, though? If it becomes universal, then I fear it wouldn’t take long for the lines to blur between public and private. It might open the door to all educational institutions becoming mired in the bureaucratic bullshit that hinders public schools now.

        I don’t necessarily oppose vouchers, but we should proceed with caution and consider any potential unintended consequences. I’m glad it’s still largely a state-level issue where some places are experimenting. Allows for best-practice adoption.

    2. Although H Farnham makes many sound arguments against school vouchers (similar to arguments against expanding government funding for Higher Education and healthcare during the past 40 years), K-12 education is still primarily funded by local taxpayers, controlled by locally elected school boards, but heavily influenced by left wing teacher’s unions, which have enormous control over school boards, especially in Democrat cities.

      Also, increasingly more black urban Democrats support school choice via vouchers (because they see how bad the inner city public schools are for their children, but cannot afford to send their children to a private school).

      As a childless person who has been required by law to pay public school taxes (to subsidize education for other people’s children), I’d prefer allowing parents to pick alternative schools via vouchers funded by taxpayers (than force all children to attend failing schools where they are taught to be left wing revolutionaries).

      1. Your last paragraph, I think, is the best argument for vouchers.

    3. A couple states (or maybe more) have devolved choice onto the taxpayer by letting them choose between paying their school tax or giving the money to scholarship funds for low-income students at private schools. At least that’s how I recall it without Googling.

      I’d say this is the better approach.

      1. Interesting. I’ll have to look into that; sounds like it could be a really good system. Thanks.

  8. Although Democrats are far more likely to get abortions than Republicans, 200 House GOP members are still defending the Hyde amendment (that prohibits the US government from funding abortions).
    https://www.newsmax.com/politics/republicans-house-abortions-taxes/2021/01/26/id/1007289/

    Just as Democrats advocate illegal immigration (because they know more illegal immigrants will become Democrats than Republicans after given the right to vote), Republicans should support eliminating the Hyde amendment (because doing so will further reduce the fertility rate among Democrats, especially poor single urban women who rely upon Big Brother for free housing, food, education, healthcare, etc.).

    America will be a much better place if BLM and Antifa activists aborted their pregnancies.

    1. Is it possible that these “hypocritical prolifers” – at least some of them – actually believe what they say – and that they don’t make an exception to the right to life for the children of Democrats?

  9. Well, we have 94 more days of executive orders yet, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that school choice prospects in all 50 states are pretty lousy right now.

    Can’t indoctrinate children into the CRT cult if parents are allowed to make educational choices for their own children.

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  11. What Are the Prospects for School Choice Gains in 14 States?

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  12. Does Reason realize who is now in power? Unions are by proxy. Any state contemplating school choice can kiss any federal funds good by. The left has taken over and you will submit and obey regardless what is best for your children. Unions help elect Democrats so you will submit to them and obey. The Federal Government will enforce it.

  13. This is very good decision to give more freedom for parents to choose wich school they want to their kids. When i was younger i studied not very good because i hated my school and some teachers. Now i’m student and i work a lot and becouse of that i dont have enough time for my hobbies. I prefer to use some help from https://paper-due-now.com/ – to have more free time to spend it with my friends! My last decision is to choose the best school for my future kids.

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