Written by Evan Walter
The positive momentum from the “Year of School Choice” in 2011 is being carried over into 2012, with several states primed to implement major reforms.
Louisiana, already a pioneer in the school choice movement, is poised to make its New Orleans voucher program available statewide, allowing low-income students attending “C”-rated schools or lower to receive vouchers to attend private schools of their choice. If implemented, 380,000 students would qualify for the program, which has received high praise from New Orleans families.
South Carolina is examining a proposal to implement a tuition tax credit program for families. If approved, families who choose to send their children to private schools would be eligible for a $4,000 state income tax deduction. If they choose to homeschool their children, they would be eligible for a $2,000 deduction. Grooms explained:
Parents have always had the most information and the best motivation to make decisions for their own children.… Freedom in education isn’t just academically effective and economically efficient; it’s also the right thing to do for families.… There are 15,000 low-income students in private schools in South Carolina.… Their parents are really sacrificing to keep their sons and daughters enrolled in the school they believe is best for that child. Those same parents pay over $8 million in state income taxes each year, but save the state $72 million in public school spending. There is a total disconnect here.
In Maine, Governor Paul LePage has announced a plan that would allow students to attend public schools outside their districts that have available space. Another proposal would permit tax dollars to follow a child to attend a private school of choice.
Florida is also examining a plan to raise the limit on the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program—which provides tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship-granting organizations—to $229 million, up from $218.75 million. Another proposal would allow more access to the Florida Virtual School for K-3 students by expanding course offerings and removing requirements that all students must spend a year in public school before enrolling in the program.
Idaho is considering lifting the cap on the number of charter schools that can open annually in an effort to expand the state’s options. Current state law allows for only six charters to open each year, and only one may open in any district each year. State Representative Bob Nonini says charters must be given the chance to open more freely.
Finally, Wisconsin’s state assembly has passed a special needs scholarship program that would allow students with disabilities to receive scholarships of up to $13,400 to attend schools of their parents’ choice. Brian Pleva of the American Federation for Children said:
This plan is about providing families who have children with special needs with educational choice, because they know their children better than anyone else. As we’ve seen in programs around the country, giving more options to parents can transform the lives of families and give students a real chance to succeed.
Last year’s “Year of School Choice” is continuing into 2012, meaning that even more students will reap the benefits of a quality education and be given the opportunity for a brighter future.
Evan Walter is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm