NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Significant Gains Recorded for School Choice

July 23, 2003

School choice engages parents and creates market competition that results in improvements in public schools, says author Krista Kafer.

In her new book, "School Choice 2003," Kafer provides information on each state and the District of Columbia, including statistics on traditional public schools, public charter schools and private schools regarding enrollment, teacher-pupil ratio, number of schools and other data. The book also provides a snapshot of the history of school choice in each state, updated through May 2003 and education reform organizations in each state.

Nationwide, says Kafer, the school choice movement has made significant gains:

  • In six states -- Colorado, Florida, Maine, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin --students may use state or district-funded scholarships to attend a private school of choice.
  • Six states offer tax credits or deductions for education expenses or contributions to scholarship programs.
  • Forty states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school laws.
  • Fifteen states guarantee public school choice within or between districts; other states have choice programs that are optional for districts, target only specific populations, and/or require that parents pay tuition.
  • Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have privately funded scholarship organizations that provide tuition assistance to more than 60,000 students.
  • In all 50 states, home schooling is legal -- and as many as 2 million students are home schooled nationwide.

When parents are allowed to remove their children -- and the money that comes with them -- from failing schools, public schools are forced to respond, says Kafer. There is also evidence that choice programs that allow children to attend private schools can improve student achievement. The findings are strongest for Africa-American students, she says.

Source: Krista Kafer, "School Choice 2003: How States Are Providing Greater Opportunity In Education," Heritage Foundation, 2003.

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