What is School Choice?
The following is the first entry in a series of posts explaining School Choice and its various options. You can learn more about the ACLJ’s School Choice Initiative here.
School Choice is essentially a way the government can allow educational tax dollars to be used to enable parents to choose whatever education option they feel is best for their kids. It breaks the cycle of forcing families to send their kids to floundering public schools because of where they live.
We’re all paying for education through income tax, sales tax, property tax, and a whole host of other creative ways to tax local residents. That money is used to pay for education, but overwhelmingly devoted to the often failing public education system. For most parents, the only option is to send their child to the public school closest to their home. If they live in an underperforming school district, this can be disheartening. Worse, it can crush a child’s future opportunity right out of the gate.
Underperforming schools – particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities – are setting up America’s children for generational failure, robbing them of a future.
Parents are paying into a state education system through their tax dollars but are being given no say in their child’s education.
School choice asks, if governments can get so creative with how they raise tax dollars for education, why can’t they get equally creative in finding innovative ways for children to actually receive the best educational opportunity possible?
Through school choice, some of that tax money, or at least the choice of where it goes, is returned to parents through a variety of options including School Vouchers, Educational Savings Accounts, Charter and Magnet Schools, Tax-Credit Scholarships, and Tax Credits and Deductions. We will go into more detail in future posts to explain some of these. These options make it possible for parents to send their children to the school they feel offers their children the best educational opportunities—not just the one the state says they have to attend. That can include the private, religious, charter, homeschool, or public school of their choosing – regardless of economic standing.
Through School Choice programs, kids have a fighting chance at a quality education and going on to college. With the help of one voucher program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program - which enabled parents in lower-income Washington, D.C., neighborhoods to send their kids to private schools - the graduation rate increased by 21% over their peers in public schools.
But despite this success rate, the Obama Administration allowed the program’s authorization to expire, cut funding to the program, and even reportedly rescinded already awarded scholarships. It seems the Left would prefer, as they have done for decades, to simply continue shoveling trillions of dollars into failing public schools and school districts. It doesn’t work. The Left’s plan has only demonstrated dire long-term consequences for America’s children. Fortunately, in the case of the D.C. program, Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Joe Lieberman worked to reauthorize the program over President Obama’s objection, and the Trump Administration reversed the Obama funding cuts, ensuring affordable choice to even more parents.
But it’s not enough. Right now almost half of the states in the U.S. still don’t allow for some form of school choice. That means countless American kids are still receiving subpar educations and being left ill-equipped to survive after graduation, if they even graduate at all. How can we say to these kids that they must enter society and follow the same rules, but not give them the same tools and opportunities that requires?
It’s educational injustice and it has to change – and soon.
As Senator Tim Scott (SC) said so poignantly, “In our society, . . . we spend so much time on the ‘root causes’ and the disadvantages that we forget to talk about the solutions and the advantage that we have over the rest of the world. . . . It is absolutely essential that we have quality education in every ZIP Code, especially the poorest ZIP Codes in America. That is the path forward.”
At the ACLJ, we’ve launched our School Choice Initiative to ensure that every state in the country allows parents to choose the school they believe will provide their kids the best education – whether it’s a private, religious, charter, homeschool, or public school – regardless of economic or social standing.
We are drafting model state legislation to ensure that every child has equality of opportunity in education, including school vouchers. We’ve filed briefs at the Supreme Court to defend state school choice laws to equally apply to religious education. And we’re aggressively working on Capitol Hill to ensure that federal funding in education allows maximum choice for maximum results.
Join us by standing up for educational justice and equal opportunity in education for ALL children. Sign our petition to demand school choice in all 50 states.