Monday, February 23, 2015

School Choice Metamorphoses From Vouchers to Savings Accounts

Students at Benchmark Preschool and Elementary School in Phoenix
If you haven’t paid close attention to the school choice movement over the past 10 years, you might not realize how much it has changed. Due to lawsuits and other limitations, innovators have figured out that tuition scholarships, also known as education savings accounts, are more effective than vouchers for giving families a choice of schools. The difference is parents are given much broader control over how to use the money. Instead of just transferring the public school money that would have been spent on a child to a few select schools, parents can choose to spend it in many ways, including for school books, tutoring, or P.E. at a traditional school.

Arizona is the leading state in the country for school choice. But a court in Arizona ruled that directing vouchers to religious (parochial) schools is unconstitutional. Undaunted, proponents of school choice found a way around it by setting up ESAs, where parents direct the money instead of the state. Now other states around the country are scrambling to pass similar legislation.

Last weekend, I attended a school choice conference in Phoenix put on by the Franklin Center. It is one small group taking on powerful teachers unions through the spread of knowledge. The establishment uses fear mongering and false information to retain the status quo. The threat that schools will run out of funding? That’s not accurate, The Goldwater Institute’s Education Director Jonathan Butcher explained at the conference. The establishment waits for an event that sort of looks like funding might have been cut, then sends out an alarming message. In reality, money for education in Arizona has never been cut and now takes up an incredible 45 percent of the state’s budget. Butcher contrasts it with the cost of Sears catalog products years ago versus today – unlike typical commodities, the cost of education has gone in the opposite direction and we now pay more for less.

Read the rest of the article at Townhall

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