School choice

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School choice is a term or label given to a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools, to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence. In the United States, the most common option offered by 'school choice' programs are educational voucher programs. These programs offer a given student and their family the option to take a subsidy from public educational funds and put that money towards tuition in private schools. This subsidy may also be accomplished through tax-credit programs. Other 'school choice' options include open enrollment laws that allow students to attend other public schools and charter schools, and homeschooling.

Forms[edit]

Vouchers[edit]

When the government pays tuition to a private school on behalf of the parents, this is usually referred to as a voucher. A voucher is given to the family for them to spend at any school of their choice for their child's study. The two most common voucher designs are universal vouchers and means-tested vouchers. Means-tested vouchers are directed towards low-income families and constitute the bulk of voucher plans in the United States.

Tuition tax credits[edit]

A tuition tax credit is similar to most other familiar tax credits. Certain states allow individuals and/or businesses to deduct a certain amount of their income taxes to donate to education. Depending on the program, these donations can either go to a public school or to a School Tuition Organization (STO), or both. The donations that go to public schools are often used to help pay for after-school programs, schools trips, or school supplies. The donations that go to School Tuition Organizations are used by the STO to create scholarships that are then given to students. These programs currently exist in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in the United States.[1]

Charter schools[edit]

Charter schools are public schools with more relaxed rules and regulations. These relaxed rules tend to deal with things like Teacher Union contracts and state curriculum. The majority of states (and the District of Columbia) have charter school laws. Minnesota was the first state to have a charter school law and the first charter school in the United States, City Academy High School, opened in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1992.[2]

Dayton, Ohio has between 22–26% of all children in charter schools.[3] This is the highest percentage in the nation. Other hotbeds for charter schools are Kansas City (24%), Washington, D.C. (20-24%) and Arizona. Almost 1 in 4 public schools in Arizona are charter schools, comprising about 8% of total enrollment.

Charter schools can also come in the form of Cyber Charters. Cyber charter schools deliver the majority of their instruction over the internet instead of in a school building. And, like charter schools, they are public schools, but free of many of the rules and regulations that public schools must follow.

Magnet schools[edit]

Magnet schools are public schools that often have a specialized function like science, technology or art. These magnet schools, unlike charter schools, are not open to all children. Much like many private schools, there are some (but not all) magnet schools that require a test to get in.

Home schooling[edit]

"Home education" or "home schooling" is instruction in a child's home, or provided primarily by a parent, or under direct parental control. Informal home education has always taken place, and formal instruction in the home has at times also been very popular. As public education grew in popularity during the 1900s, however, the number of people educated at home using a planned curriculum dropped. In the last 20 years, in contrast, the number of children being formally educated at home has grown tremendously, in particular in the United States. The laws relevant to home education differ throughout the country. In some states the parent simply needs to notify the state that the child will be educated at home. In other states the parents are not free to educate at home unless at least one parent is a certified teacher and yearly progress reports are reviewed by the state. Such laws are not always enforced however. According to the federal government, about 1.1 million children were home educated in 2003.[4]

Support[edit]

The goal of school choice programs is to give parents more control over their child's education, and to allow parents to pursue the most appropriate learning environments for children. For example school choice may enable parents to choose a school that provides religious instruction for their children; stronger discipline; better foundational skills including reading, writing, mathematics, and science; everyday skills from handling money to farming, or other desirable foci.[5][6]

Supporters of voucher models school choice argue that choice creates competition between schools for students. Schools that fail to attract students can be closed. Advocates of school choice argue that this competition for students (and the education dollars that come with them) create a catalyst for schools to create innovative programs, become more responsive to parental demands, and to increase student achievement.[7] Caroline Hoxby suggests that this competition increases the productivity of a school. Hoxby describes a productive school as being one that produces high achievements in its student for each dollar that is spends.[8] Others suggest that this competition gives parents more power to influence their child's school in the school marketplace. Parents and students become the consumers and schools must work to attract new students with new programs. Parents also have the ability to punish schools that they judge to be inferior by leaving the 'bad' school for a better, more highly ranked school.[9] Parents look for schools that will advocate for the needs of their child and if the school does not meet the needs required for that child, parents have the choice to find a school that will be more suitable[10]

Another argument in favor of school choice is based on cost-effectiveness. Studies undertaken by the Cato Institute and other libertarian and conservative thinktanks conclude that privately run education usually costs between one quarter and one half of publicly run education while giving superior outcomes.[11][12][13][14]

Others argue that since children from impoverished families almost exclusively attend public schools, school choice programs would allow these students to opt out of bad schools and acquire a better education, thereby granting the decision-making power to students and their parents, not school administrators. Supporters say this would level the playing field by broadening opportunities for low-income students to attend as good of schools as the middle classes instead of the current two-tiered system which educates the middle and upper classes, but not the lower classes, particularly minorities.[5][15]

The Organisation Internationale pour le Droit à l'Education et la Liberté d'Enseignement (OIDEL), an international non-profit organization for the development of freedom of education, maintains that the right to education is a fundamental human right which cannot exist without the presence of State benefits and the protection of individual liberties. According to the organization, freedom of education notably implies the freedom for parents to choose a school for their children without discrimination on the basis of finances. To advance freedom of education, OIDEL promotes a greater parity between public and private schooling systems.[16]

International overview and major institutional options[edit]

France[edit]

The French government subsidizes most private primary and secondary schools, including those affiliated with religious denominations, under contracts stipulating that education must follow the same curriculum as public schools and that schools cannot discriminate on grounds of religion or force pupils to attend religion classes.

This system of école libre (Free Schooling) is mostly used not for religious reasons, but for practical reasons (private schools may offer more services, such as after-class tutoring) as well as the desire of parents living in disenfranchised areas to send their children away from the local schools, where they perceive that the youth are too prone to delinquency or have too many difficulties keeping up with schooling requirements that the educational content is bound to suffer. The threatened repealing of that status in the 1980s triggered mass street demonstrations in favor of the status.[citation needed]

Sweden[edit]

Sweden reformed its school system in 1992.[17] Its system of school choice is one of the freest in the world, allowing students to use public funds for the publicly or privately run school of their choice, including religious and for-profit schools.[17] Fifteen years after the reform, private school enrolment had increased from 1% to 10% of the student population.[17]

Canada[edit]

Ontario is the only large province in Canada with limited school choice funding, Catholic, Secular and one Protestant school receive funding and are open to all students. In 2003, following an international human rights ruling, the provincial Conservative government gradually introduced a tax credit over 5 years, (when it would have been fully implemented it would have been worth up to 50% of tuition to a maximum of $3,500 at any independent school in Ontario) in order to meet the human rights norms and expand funded choice to all interested parents. However, the tax credit was retroactively canceled by the subsequent Liberal government when it had been only been in place for two years to the $1,000 point. Currently there are over 900 independent schools in Ontario. The only school choice program available to non-rich parents who wish to send their children to an independent school is a privately funded program called Children First, a program of The Fraser Institute.

Chile[edit]

In Chile, there is an extensive voucher system in which the state pays private and municipal schools directly, based on average attendance (90% of the country students utilize such a system). The result has been a steady increase in the number and recruitment of private schools that show consistently better results in standardized testing than municipal schools. The reduction of students in municipal schools has gone from 78% of all students in 1981, to 57% in 1990, and to less than 50% in 2005.

Regarding vouchers in Chile, researchers have found that when controls for the student's background (parental income and education) are introduced, the difference in performance between public and private subsectors is not significant.[18] There is also greater variation within each subsector than between the two systems.[19]

United States[edit]

A variety of forms of school choice exist in the United States. Florida operates the Step Up for Students program that offers tuition assistance for low-income students to attend private schools or transportation funding for low-income students to attend the out of district public school of their choice.

Vouchers[edit]

Vouchers currently exist in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and, most recently, the District of Columbia[1] and Georgia.

The largest and oldest Voucher program is in Milwaukee. Started in 1990, and expanded in 1995, it currently allows no more than 15% of the district's public school enrollment to use vouchers. As of 2005 over 14,000 students use vouchers and they are nearing the 15% cap.[20]

School vouchers are legally controversial in some states; in 2005 the Florida Supreme Court found that school vouchers were unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution.[citation needed]

In the U.S., the legal and moral precedents for vouchers may have been set by the G.I. bill, which includes a voucher program for university-level education of veterans. The G.I. bill permits veterans to take their educational benefits at religious schools, an extremely divisive issue when applied to primary and secondary schools.[citation needed]

In Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002), the Supreme Court of the United States held that school vouchers could be used to pay for education in sectarian schools without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. As a result, states are basically free to enact voucher programs that provide funding for any school of the parent's choosing.[citation needed]

The Supreme Court has not decided, however, whether states can provide vouchers for secular schools only, excluding sectarian schools. Proponents of funding for parochial schools argue that such an exclusion would violate the free exercise clause. However, in Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004), the Court held that states could exclude majors in "devotional theology" from an otherwise generally available college scholarship. The Court has not indicated, however, whether this holding extends to the public school context, and it may well be limited to the context of individuals training to enter the ministry.[citation needed]

Tuition tax credits[edit]

Tuition tax credit programs currently exist in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and recently Georgia.

Arizona has probably the most well known and fastest growing tax credit program. In the Arizona School Tuition Organization Tax Credit program individuals can deduct up to $500 and couples filing joint returns can deduct up to $1000. About 20,000 children received scholarships in the 2003-2004 school year. And, since the program has started in 1998, over 77,000 scholarships have been granted.[1]

The Arizona program was challenged in court by a group of state taxpayers on the grounds that the tax credit violated the First Amendment because the tuition grants could go to students who attend private schools including schools with religious affiliations.[21] Typically, taxpayers are not allowed to bring suit against the government regarding how taxes are spent because injury would be purely speculative. The Court ruled 5-4 to let the tax credit program stand[21] In April 2011, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll found that a majority of American voters (60%) felt that the tax credits support school choice for parents whereas 26% felt as it the tax credits support religion.[22]

In Iowa, the Educational Opportunities Act was signed into law in 2006, creating a pool of tax credits for eligible donors to student tuition organizations (STOs). At first, these tax caps were $5 million but in 2007, Governor Chet Culver increased the total amount to $7.5 million. The Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education (Iowa ACE) oversees the STOs and advocates for school choice in Iowa.[citation needed]

Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning (GOAL) is the Georgia program which offers a state income tax credit to donors of scholarships to private schools.[23][24] Representative David Casas was responsible for passing the Georgia version of the school choice legislation.[25][26]

Charter schools[edit]

The majority of states (and the District of Columbia) have charter school laws. Minnesota was the first state to have a charter school law and the first charter school in the United States, City Academy, opened in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1992.[27]

Dayton, Ohio has between 22–26% of all children in charter schools.[3] This is the highest percentage in the nation. Other hotbeds for charter schools are Kansas City (24%), Washington, D.C. (20-24%) and the State of Arizona. Almost 1 in 4 public schools in Arizona are charter schools, comprising about 8% of total enrollment.

Charter schools can also come in the form of Cyber Charters. Cyber charter schools deliver the majority of their instruction over the internet instead of in a school building. And, like charter schools, they are public schools, but free of many of the rules and regulations that public schools must follow.

Magnet schools[edit]

Magnet schools are public schools that often have a specialized function like science, technology or art. These magnet schools, unlike charter schools, are not open to all children. Much like many private schools, the students must test into the school.

Home schooling[edit]

The laws relevant to homeschooling differ between US states. In some states the parent simply needs to notify the state that the child will be educated at home. In other states the parents are not free to educate at home unless at least one parent is a certified teacher and yearly progress reports are reviewed by the state. Such laws are not always enforced however. According to the Federal Government, about 1.1 million children were Home Educated in 2003.[4]

College[edit]

The United States has school choice at the university level. College students can get subsidized tuition by attending any public college or university within their state of residence. Furthermore, the U.S. federal government provides tuition assistance for both public and private colleges via the G.I. Bill and federally guaranteed student loans.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Kafer, Krista (2005-04-25). "Choices in Education: 2005 Progress Report". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  2. ^ "Clinton touts success of public charter schools". CNN. 2000-05-04. Retrieved 2008-08-27. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b Elliot, Scott (2005-12-02). "Catholic schools: Victims of choice". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  4. ^ a b "1.1 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2003". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  5. ^ a b Davies, Scott; Janice Aurini (Dec 2011). "Exploring School Choice in Canada: Who Chooses What and Why". Canadia Public Policy 37 (4): 459–477. doi:10.1353/cpp.2011.0047. 
  6. ^ Gulosino, Charisse; Christopher Lubienski (May 2011). "School's strategic responses to competition in segregated urban areas: Patterns in school locations in Metropolitan Detroit". Education Policy Analysis Archives 19 (13): 1–29. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Lubienski, Christopher; Jack Dougherty (August 2009). "Mapping Educational Opportunity: Spatial Analysis and School Choices". American Journal of Education 115 (4): 485–491. doi:10.1086/599783. 
  8. ^ Hoxby, Caroline M. (2003). "School Choice and School Productivity Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?". The Economics of School Choice: 287–342. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Lessard, Claude and Andre Brassard. "Education Governance in Canada, 1990-2003: Trends and Significance" Canadian Perspectives on the Sociology of Education. Ed. Cynthia Levine-Rasky. Don Wells: Oxford University Press, 2009. 255-274.
  10. ^ Bosetti, Lynn (June 2004). "Determinants of School Choice: Understanding How Parents Choose Elementary Schools in Alberta". Journal of Education Policy 19 (4): 387–405. doi:10.1080/0268093042000227465. 
  11. ^ "$5000 School Vouchers Would Give Most Students Access to Quality Private Schools". Cato Institute. 2003-09-02. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  12. ^ Salisbury, David (2003-08-28). "What Does a Voucher Buy?" (PDF). Cato Institute. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  13. ^ Murray, Vicki (2005-03-01). "Arizona Private Schools Half as Expensive as Public Schools". The Heartland Institute. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  14. ^ "K-12 Public Education Spending in Washington". Washington Policy. Retrieved 2008-08-27. [dead link]
  15. ^ "12 million languish in failing public schools, report says". The Washington Times. 2004-08-29. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  16. ^ "OIDEL - A Presentation" (Portable Document Format). Organisation Internationale pour le Droit à l'Education et la Liberté d'Enseignement. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  17. ^ a b c "Free to choose, and learn". The Economist. 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  18. ^ McEwan, Patrick J.; Martin Carnoy (Fall 2000). "The Effectiveness and Efficiency of Private Schools in Chile's Voucher System". Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 22 (3): 213–239. doi:10.3102/01623737022003213. 
  19. ^ Mizala, Alejandra; Pilar Romaguera (August 2000). Determinación de Factores Explicativos de los Resultados Escolares en Educación Media en Chile. Economy Series No. 85. Centre for Applied Economics, Department of Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Chile. 
  20. ^ "School Choice - Wisconsin". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  21. ^ a b Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn et al. 987 U.S. 9 (2011)
  22. ^ Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll "Public Blesses Arizona Christian School Tuition" press release (April 4, 2011)
  23. ^ Bell, Daniel (October 27, 2009). "GOAL to aid private schools, donors: Saturday is the deadline for a tax break to benefit schools and their contributors.". Rome News-Tribune. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  24. ^ Allen, Greg, "Tax Credit Scholarships Reignite Voucher Debate", NPR All Things Considered, August 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  25. ^ http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2007_08/sum/hb1133.htm
  26. ^ Georgia State Representative David Casas discussing HB 1133 and HB 325, scholarship tax credits, YouTube video
  27. ^ "Clinton touts success of public charter schools". CNN. 2000-05-04. Retrieved 2008-08-27. [dead link]

External links[edit]