NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 4, 2006

A recent study shows that things aren't as bad as we thought in American public education, they are actually worse, says Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation.

According to international comparisons:

  • American fourth-graders appear to be doing fairly well, but those in 8th and 10th grades have fallen behind their peers.
  • Among 11 nations that gave similar tests at all three levels, Americans finished eighth in the 4th grade, ninth in the 10th grade and ninth on the test given to 15-year-olds.

To solve the problem, says Lips, parents must be given more choices in directing their children's education and school systems should provide more choices to meet those needs.

Today, nearly 1,700 children participate in the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program -- which was created by Congress in 2004. The $13 million program offers $7,500 grants so that families eligible for the free and reduced-price school lunch programs can send their children to private schools, says Lips:

  • Studies show that parents love the program and are far happier with the private schools; more than 1,000 children are currently on the waiting list for scholarships.
  • President Bush has called for a new program to offer similar opportunity scholarships across the nation; his 2007 budget proposal includes the Opportunity Scholarships for Kids initiative, which would provide $100 million in federal grants to local groups that award private school scholarships.
  • Under the president's proposal, only children from low-income families who are currently enrolled in persistently failing public schools would be eligible to participate.
  • In all, more than 20,000 children in 10 states could receive opportunity scholarships through the program.

Moreover, this could be the best thing to ever happen to lots of parents who have nothing to lose and everything to gain, says Lips.

Source: Dan Lips, "Vouchers Offer Hope to Failing U.S. Students," Heritage Foundation, March 13, 2006.


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