Although a number of developments made 1998 a banner year for advancing the cause of parental choice in education, one of the more important factors was the continuation of a trend noted in prior years: increasing support from low-income parents and from educators, often former school choice opponents. That, in turn, spurred further support from state and federal legislators.
Buttressing those encouraging developments in attitudes toward school choice was the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a challenge to Milwaukee’s voucher program, which had been expanded to include religious schools.
While encouraging school choice legislation has been offered at the federal level, a new Heritage Foundation report reminds us that most of the significant developments in school choice–from the passage of charter school legislation to innovative local choice programs created with private scholarship funds–are taking place in the 50 individual states. As the accompanying map shows, the opportunity of parents to exercise choice in the education of their children varies widely from state to state and city to city.
Details of each state’s recent progress in the direction of school choice are provided by Nina Shokraii Rees and Sarah E. Youssef in the 1999 edition of School Choice Programs: What’s Happening in the States. The 129-page Heritage Foundation handbook presents a state-by-state overview of public education statistics such as graduation rates and per-pupil expenditures, together with details of recent education reform efforts and the position of each governor on school choice and charter schools. A list of national, state, and local contacts also is provided.
According to the authors, the states to watch this year for possible passage of school choice legislation are Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Arizona. In addition, two initiative efforts will come to fruition in the year 2000 and are worth watching: the School Choice YES! tax credit initiative in Michigan, and a voucher initiative in California.
School Choice Programs: What’s Happening in the States 1999 is available on The Heritage Foundation’s Web site at http://www.heritage.org/schools. To ensure that users of this resource are afforded ready access to the latest developments, new and updated information is posted to the Heritage Web site quarterly.
The handbook also is available for $10.00 plus $2.25 shipping and handling from The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002-4999, phone 202/546-4400.