School Choice

An update on School Choice for 2017

School choice enables parents to decide what is best for their children’s education. The parents determine the best method of delivery whether it is private, public, religious or home schooling. School choice gives parents their constitutional right to direct education according to their convictions and values.

The right to send children to private schools have always been an option for parents. They simply have to pay the tuition of the school. Today many states are making available more exciting options. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to a private school or to move to another district. There are roughly twenty states in the country have some legislation regarding the right to choose. Private school choice redirects public money to individual students, so their families can decide where to educate their children. If a parent lives in a poor district, they can redirect their school taxes in the form of a voucher to send their children to a private school. If parents did not have the option to redirect their tax money, they would have to pay twice for their child’s education. The first payment would be to the government and the second to the private school. Over 150,000 parents take advantage of this option.

The first form of private school choice are scholarships where parents can allocate funds anywhere. This can be a religious school or any private school. These scholarships are directed toward low-income families. Indiana has one of the most comprehensive scholarship program in the nation directed toward middle and low-income families. Washington D.C. has one of the only federally funded scholarship program providing up to $12,000 in education funding. Milwaukee and New Orleans have extensive scholarship programs as well.
The second form of scholarships is directed toward children with special needs or within the foster care system. These programs are popular in Ohio, Georgia, Utah, Louisiana and Florida.

Another form of scholarships is known as Tax Credit Scholarship Programs. Corporations that contribute to school choice scholarships receive tax credits which reduce the tax they have to pay to the government. States that participate in these programs include Florida, Iowa, Arizona and Georgia.

The final form of scholarships is Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs permit parents to deposit a portion of their allocated public funding into an account that allows them to export options such as private school tuition and online education.

Despite the progress that has been made, most of the nation’s children remain in public schools. Close to 60 million students remain in public schools, and many are performing poorly. As a nation, we spend close to 500 billion on public schools, and many are failing. The graduation rates for minority students are a little more than 50 percent. Efforts need to be made to continue to support public schools and still offer options for students at a disadvantage.

The most popular form of public school choice is charter schools which have seen a substantial increase over the last decade. These are publicly funded schools that seem to have more freedom than public schools but must still provide a quality program as governed by each State. However, they can demand more accountability from staff and terminate low performing employees. Charter schools have been started by private companies, parents, religious groups, and even colleges. Parents have started charter schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods to provide a better education for their kids.

There are over 5000 charter schools in the United States serving close to 2 million students. The biggest states include Houston, California, New Orleans, and Washington DC. Home schooling is also an option that many parents choose to direct their child’s education. More than 2 million students across the US receive their education at home.

Joseph J Tramontana Hamilton Township School District