NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

2002 Was a Momentous Year for School Choice

April 15, 2003

Progress on school choice in the statehouse and courtroom during 2002 sets the stage for an ambitious 2003 legislative agenda in many states and the U.S. Congress. Most significant, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that voucher programs do not violate the Constitution even when participating schools are overwhelmingly religious.

Meanwhile, the body of research supporting choice grew considerably. This research, the Supreme Court's landmark legal opinion and the increased legislative activity on choice provide a foundation for new programs that will empower parents to choose the schools that best meet their children's needs.

Nationwide, the school choice movement has made significant gains. By December 2002:

  • More than 46,000 students were benefiting from five publicly funded voucher programs in Florida, Maine, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin.
  • Six states were offering tax credits or deductions for educational expenses or contributions to scholarship programs.
  • In the U.S. Congress, a bill to grant low-income parents a tax deduction for education expenses was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • The federal No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law January 2002, granted students in more than 8,600 low-performing schools nationwide the right to transfer to higher-performing schools.
  • More than 60,000 students benefited from more than 100 privately funded scholarship programs.

New studies have added to the growing body of evidence that when parents are empowered to choose their children's schools -- whether they choose public, public charter, private or home schools -- all students can benefit. This research has added to the growing recognition that competition produced by school choice improves the public system.

Source: Krista Kafer, "Progress on School Choice in the States," Backgrounder #1639, March 26, 2003, Heritage Foundation.


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