(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Veteran school choice warrior Bob Holland landed a nice overview of the school choice movement in the Orlando Sentinel. One of the money quotes:
This past school year, more than 350,000 students used a conventional voucher, a tax-credit scholarship, or an Education Savings Account via 58 school-choice programs in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Ten years ago, there were only 10 voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs supporting 106,456 students.
Watch those savings accounts. An ESA is the next-generation voucher, much as Uber is the next-generation taxi service. It works like this: Parents may have a sizable percentage of their child’s share of state education dollars deposited into an ESA from which they can draw to pay for educational products, providers or services of their choosing.
This has the potential to individualize education as much as it is now bureaucratized. Families could seek and pay for courses or programs that meet a child’s particular needs — tutoring if math is tough, or advanced math in an elite private school if that is the student’s bent; a home-school co-op for a reading round table; or even an early credit literature course at an area university. Possibilities abound.
Bob’s tally of the last decade adds emphasis to a point I raised earlier on JPGB- lawmakers have passed 48 private choice programs in the last decade (which is awesome) and the number of participants has more than tripled (could be better). Many of these programs, like the new special needs program that passed in the Wisconsin budget last night, remain newborns or infants and will begin adding students soon. Still…
Nevada’s new ESA program sets a new bar for the movement. The law has what we should all recognize at this point as a highly desirable broad pool of eligibility-we don’t means test public schools, charter schools or virtual schooling programs. We should not means test private choice programs either. NVESA deals with equity issues through varied funding rather than eligibility and allows multiple uses for funds. Nevada lawmakers can improve NVESA over time by including funding weights as policymakers develop for them for the public system. NVESA is not your father’s Oldsmobile and that’s a good thing.
Nevada lawmakers passed the best school choice program to date this year, but they can improve upon it over time and we can surpass it in other states.