NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Lies Ahead For School Choice?

June 22, 2000

The school-choice movement is stepping ahead smartly and -- although still small -- is changing the character of American education. Champions of public schools and the status quo are clearly on the defensive and have a lot of explaining to do.

Here are some measures of the movement's progress.

  • Nearly one-tenth of the District of Columbia's public-school children now attend 27 charter schools -- and by September, when at least five additional charters are likely to open, the proportion could increase to one-ninth.
  • By 2001, the proportion could well be one-eighth.
  • Less than two years after passage of Missouri's charter law, 13.5 percent of Kansas City's children are studying in these new schools.
  • In Arizona, the statewide rate is near 5 percent -- and in Philadelphia the proportion of charter-educated students is more than 10 percent.

Nationally, some 1,700 charter schools enroll almost 350,000 students. Education secretary Richard Riley predicts there will be 3,000 such schools by 2002.

Such rapid growth has prompted several education experts to envision how a school system based on choice, accountability and autonomy would actually work. They projected an imaginary school system operating in Washington, D.C., in the year 2010. Forty-five percent of schools would be charters and another 45 percent would operate under the management of various firms and organizations -- with the remaining 10 percent being private schools.

Source: Chester E. Finn Jr. (Thomas B. Fordham Foundation), Bruno V. Manno (Annie E. Casey Foundation), and Gregg Vanourek, "What if All Schools Were Schools of Choice?" Weekly Standard, June 19, 2000.


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