We’re just eight months in, but 2011 has already proven to be the most exciting year for school choice to date. Thirteen states and D.C. enacted or expanded school choice options for families, leading The Wall Street Journal to proclaim 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” But just what is school choice?
Heritage’s new education video tells the story of two towns: Choiceville and Districtville. Choiceville has a variety of supermarkets, each specializing in something different. Supermarkets compete to attract customers, increasing quality for everyone.
But it’s a different story in Districtville. In this town, residents pay their monthly grocery bill into a common fund, which is then distributed to individual grocery stores. Consumers are assigned to a store by district, and may shop only at that store.
Does this sound absurd? The education system in America works much like Districtville.
Children are assigned to their local public school based on their parent’s zip code. Many families cannot afford to pay property taxes to support their local public school plus private school tuition, so if their child’s assigned public school fails to meet his needs, parents often have few options. Lack of competition means public schools have little incentive to improve, which contributes to the stagnant achievement levels and graduation rates across the country.
School choice, by contrast, allows parents to spend their education dollars, like their grocery dollars, where they see fit. Parents can “shop around” to find the school that gives their child the best education.
Where would you rather live: Choiceville, or Districtville?