Explosion in new school choice laws proof that voucher programs have gone ‘mainstream’
Here's EAG with an update on strong advances in school choice in many states across the country:
Since 2011, a number of states have passed school choice legislation: Eight new school choice plans have been enacted, and 11 existing choice plans were strengthened, expanded or restored, reports the American Federation for Children in its latest School Choice Yearbook.
Among those are several promising school voucher or tax credit scholarship programs, which allow students to essentially use state money to attend the schools of their choice, including private or parochial schools.
The biggest school voucher victory occurred in Indiana, which will eventually allow all children from low- and middle-income to attend the public or private school of their choice.
Other major success stories include Wisconsin – which expanded its long-running voucher plan for Milwaukee students and created a voucher plan for Racine families – and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was reinstated in the nation's capital as part of last year's congressional budget agreement.
School choice advocates are hopeful that lawmakers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Tennessee will add to that tally during 2012. If they do, it will only increase the perception that vouchers and scholarship tax credit plans are now "a major part of mainstream education reform," as the AFC proclaims in its yearbook.
Vouchers and tax credit scholarships: First cousins
Currently, there are 15 voucher programs benefitting a total of 82,000 students throughout Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington D.C.
None of these voucher programs is universal. Instead, vouchers are given to students of families that meet certain criteria. Of the nation's 15 voucher plans, some are based on a family's income, while others are given to all students who attend a failing school district (Ohio and Louisiana). Other vouchers are designated for special needs students only.
States in which vouchers might run afoul of the state constitution are opting for scholarship tax credit programs. There are 10 such programs operating in the states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. (Arizona has three separate versions of the tax credit scholarship.)