The Most Exciting Two Minutes in School Choice

Lindsey Burke /

The Kentucky Derby may be known as the “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” but developments in school choice over the past few months have been the most exciting since Milton Friedman first proposed the idea in 1955. Indeed, this is the new normal: we are now taken aback by the states that haven’t implemented some sort of school choice option for families, whether its tuition tax credits, vouchers or online learning.

And with every state vying to outpace the next in providing educational opportunities for children, it’s hard to keep up with the proliferation of opportunities.

2011 is shaping-up to be a monumental year for school choice. The year kicked-off with big changes in Wisconsin, where in February, Governor Scott Walker broke the union stranglehold on public education and lifted the cap on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the nation’s oldest voucher program.

In March, Utah passed a statewide online learning program. The Beehive State passed the The Statewide Online Education Program, which allows children in grades 9-12 to take highschool coursework online from public or private providers anywhere in the state. Also in March, in an historic win for low-income children in the nation’s capital, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program was restored and expanded, thanks to the leadership of Speaker John Boehner.

In April, Arizona created education savings accounts (ESAs) for special-needs children, who can now receive 90 percent of state per-pupil expenditures in their ESAs, which they can use on a variety of education options, including private school tuition.

And in May, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels enacted the largest school voucher program in the country, which will help an estimated 600,000 children attend a private school of their choice.

Now, children in Oklahoma could soon benefit from a proposed tuition tax credit program. A bill which is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk would provide scholarships to children in low- and middle-income families to attend a private school of their choice. Oklahoma is building on the voucher program for special needs children passed early last year, and is on its way to having one of the most robust education markets in the country.