Asking the questions is easy: How is school choice progressing? Overall? By state? Within a state? By type of program? Where do we have vouchers? Individual tax credits? Corporate tax credits? Charter schools? Who’s involved in my state? How do I contact them?
Providing accurate answers to those questions, however, is a lot more difficult. Also, with ongoing legislative activity occurring independently at the federal level, in 50 different states, and in the District of Columbia, the challenge of providing an accurate status report on school choice in the U.S. is a perpetual, Sisyphean-like endeavor.
Fortunately for information-seekers, The Heritage Foundation rises to the challenge each year with the publication of its annual roundup of progress on school choice around the country–together with hundreds of education facts for each state, such as public school spending, school facilities, student proficiency, pupil-teacher ratio, etc.
The latest edition of this invaluable publication, School Choice 2003: How States Are Providing Greater Opportunity in Education, was released in July, both in book form and on the Internet at http://www.heritage.org. The online version will be updated on an ongoing basis as new information becomes available. Overseeing the collection and organization of this massive array of information is editor Krista Kafer, Heritage’s chief education policy analyst.
As well as devoting several pages to each state for specific education and school choice data, the introduction to the book contains several useful charts that summarize how school choice options vary across states. The introduction also provides a summary of recent important developments in school choice from several different aspects–specific legislative action, court rulings, public opinion surveys, and research studies.
For example, Kafer reports that when traditional public schools face competition, all students benefit, not just those exercising choice.
“Schools located in areas where there was high competition in attracting students–and their per-pupil funding–had a strong incentive to improve performance,” she writes.
This is a reference book that should be in the hands of everyone who is serious about wanting to improve our public schools.
Both the printed copy and the online version of School Choice 2003 are available from The Heritage Foundation’s Web site at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Education/Schools/schoolchoice_2003.cfm.