Parental choice in education is becoming more and more popular across the United States, but the recent wave has not stopped in Minnesota.
The American Federation for Children says “an Unprecedented Number of Families Are Poised to Benefit from Educational Freedom in the Upcoming School Year.” In the 6 months, 11 states have enacted some form of school choice legislation.
The programs include:
- Statewide voucher programs expanded
- A local voucher program enacted by a school board
- Education savings accounts
- Corporate tax credits for donations to scholarship-granting organizations
- Tax credits for students with special needs
The Foundation for Education Choice says that just one new program, a tax credit for special-needs students in North Carolina, could save taxpayers $10 million over a five-year period–and give parents more options.
Meanwhile, Education Week, the trade newspaper of the K-12 school industry , says that school choice programs are expanding so much that private schools may run out of room.
The problem may be most serious with voucher programs. First of all, the amount of vouchers is typically less than the state aid available for charter schools, so educational entrepreneurs may find opening a charter public school more attractive than starting a private school. Second, voucher programs typically forbid participating schools from “topping off,” or charging more than the amount of the voucher. Such programs offers chool choice, but with a price ceiling. Third, regulations, including those that have lofty-sounding purposes (every participating school must make students take state assessments, for example) can dampen the enthusiasm of those who would start new schools.
Minnesota? Well, we enacted a path for alternative certification of teachers, which is a good measure. But it’s a modest improvement, at best. Our charter school sector is vibrant and worthy of attention, but it was started back during the early 1990s–a long time ago. Other school choice proposals, such as tax credits for tuition or for scholarships to scholarship-granting organizations, die in the Legislature.