As American students prepare for school, millions of families are benefiting from an opportunity that once would have been unimaginable to them-the power to choose their children’s school. Political trends suggest that even more parents will enjoy that same opportunity in the years ahead. That’s a major win for parents.
In 2006, more than 100,000 students will participate in tuition scholarship programs that allow families to choose the right school for their children. Half a million children will benefit from tuition tax breaks to help pay for private school tuition. And more than a million children will attend one of the nation’s 3,700 public charter schools.
Next year, even more children will benefit from school choice. Already during the 2006 legislative session, eight states-Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin-have created or expanded parental choice programs. Next year, nearly 150,000 students in ten states and the District of Columbia will participate in tuition scholarship programs.
Despite this impressive growth, the students benefiting from school choice make up just a fraction of the nation’s fifty million schoolchildren. Of course, many American families exercise the most basic form of school choice-that is, choosing a school by choosing where to live-and many are satisfied with their child’s public school.
But millions of financially strapped families don’t have that option. These families often have no alternative but to enroll their children in the local public school, whatever its quality. According to the Department of Education, more than 2,000 public schools have fallen short of state benchmarks for five or more years. Students attending these schools aren’t getting a high-quality education.
Change seemed unlikely. Closely aligned with Democrats, powerful special interest groups, such as the nation’s public school teachers unions, until recently dominated the political tug-of-war to control America’s schools. They work hard to defend the