NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Heritage: The Many Faces Of School Choice

January 28, 1999

Education reforms underway in a majority of the states are offering alternatives to traditional public schools, including charter schools, interdistrict school choice and voucher programs.

Here is a brief round-up of alternative education activities in the states:

  • Arizona officials have proposed a tax-funded scholarship program to allow low-income children to attend private religious and secular schools -- while grass-roots groups in Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania are working to establish similar programs.
  • A Michigan group is promoting a state constitutional amendment to allow individuals and businesses to claim tax credits if they fund scholarships for children in grades K-12.
  • In December, New York became the 34th state to pass a law creating charter schools -- with 100 to be created there, joining the 1,285 operating nationwide.
  • In May, the California Legislature raised the cap on the number of charters that could operate there from 100 to 250 -- as well as to allow an additional 100 charters each year, beginning in 2000.

The biggest obstacle to establishing a charter school in California is the lack of state funding to build new schools, reports Investor's Business Daily. Minnesota, Florida, Arizona and the District of Columbia, on the other hand, have set up ways to allow charters to get some construction money up front. Colorado has set up a state agency that can issue tax-exempt debt to build charter schools.

Sources: Nina Shokraii Rees and Sarah E. Youssef, "School Choice 1999: What's Happening in the States," Backgrounder No. 1246, January 27, 1999, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 546-4400; Anna Bray Duff, "The States of School Reform," Investor's Business Daily, January 26, 1999.


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