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The Right To Choose A School

Good news from California.  The NYT has the story:

So, using a new state law known as the parent trigger, organizers at an underperforming school here in Compton collected hundreds of signatures from parents who said they were fed up. Parents were eager, they said, to turn it into a charter school, where students would spend more time in class with a staff of new teachers.

After months of legal battles, the status of that petition remains tied up in court. But in the meantime, a new charter school has opened just blocks from the struggling school, and parents at more than a dozen other schools in California are hoping to take advantage of the trigger law, demanding that their schools radically improve.

The rise of alternatives to the traditional public school makes many people nervous and the transition will no doubt be rough, but America’s educational system—and California’s in particular—will never work well until competition and school choice empower parents.  Ideally, parents would receive vouchers for their kids’ education which could be spent at a variety of qualified schools.  We may never get there, but moving toward systems that make schools compete for students will improve traditional public schools as well as the emerging alternatives.

Charter schools are only one alternative among many.  Virtual schools, vouchers and homeschooling cooperatives all provide options which can be tailored to parents’ and children’s needs.  Given the rotten state of so many inner city schools, school choice should be regarded as an important civil right.

California gets a lot of things wrong; it’s good to see that citizens of the Golden State are pushing educational reform into new territory.

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  • Bart Hall (Kansas, USA)

    I quite simply have absolutely no idea why so many Americans go berserk about the possibility of school vouchers.

    Even 25 years ago Québec — as liberal a place as you’ll find anywhere in North America — had a full-fledged universal school voucher system, and it included religious schools.

    The province knew how much it cost to educate a standard student in the government schools. If parents chose a private school, that private school billed the province for the standard amount and the parents for any difference.

    My boys attended an excellent private (religious) high school for five years, and the up-charge was about $600 per year, with the second student at half that amount.

    Nobody ever had the slightest concern about the voucher program … and yes, it DID force the government schools to do better.

  • Bruno Behrend

    Both this NYT article and the earlier coverage in the WSJ used background information from The Heartland Institute, yet decided not give it a mention.

    Heartland has been telling legislators across the nation about this significant law. Most other “conservative” think tanks didn’t want to assist because the idea originated on the left (Parent Revolution). Our policy brief advises the addition of a voucher option, and removal of the 2 “turnaround” options, which are merely make-work for needless bureaucrats.

    While GWB, through NCLB, deserves some credit for initiating the concept of flipping failing schools, the fact is that NCLB lacked the proper teeth to gut the system as it deserved.

    Trusting corrupt bureaucracies to improve schools is a failed strategy. It took our friends on the left to basically create the idea of a “card check” for parents, thus exposing the existing “district- based system for the fraud that it is.

    Heartland was nearly alone among think tanks to see the power of this strategy. Vouchers, charters, digital learning and tuition tax credits are the “bullets.” The parent trigger is the gun.

    Call your legislator to file a trigger bill in your state. Call me if you want help.

  • Independent George

    I know the political rationale behind it, but does anyone else find it troubling that you have to wait until after a school is declared failing before you can move your kids out of it?

    School bureaucracies succeed because they can run out the clock against the troublemaking parents. At some point, diligent parents have to decide whether to keep their kids in the system while pushing for improvements, or to pull out entirely and leave the bureaucracy untouched. Guess who wins every time?

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