As Private-School-Choice Spreads, Implementation Is Imperative
Excessive eligibility restrictions undercut effectiveness
America is in the midst of a parental choice revolution. In the past few months, five states—Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Utah and West Virginia—have adopted education savings account, or ESA, programs, which extend private-school-choice eligibility to all or most K-12 students. These programs provide students with public resources for an array of education expenses, including tuition, micro-schooling, homeschooling, education therapies, and tutoring. Florida and Texas may soon join them, and other states seemed poised to adopt more modest private-school-choice programs.
Recently, Governor Ron DeSantis, a strong parental-choice supporter, questioned the wisdom of universal ESA programs, remarking, “I’d like to see the focus remain on … low income [and] middle class” families. DeSantis’s position is not unreasonable. For decades, parental-choice advocates have emphasized the need to expand the educational opportunities available to kids who lack the financial resources to exit public schools that fail them. As Howard Fuller, an architect of the nation’s voucher program, once observed, parental choice is today “more of a rescue mission than a fight for broad societal change.” And, Florida leads the nation in advancing that mission. Although 30 states have at least one private-school-choice program, nearly 25% of participating students reside in Florida, which has four.
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Nicole Stelle Garnett is the John P. Murphy Foundation professor of law at University of Notre Dame and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
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