The U.S. is enjoying a new spring of education reform, with challenges to teacher tenure and “parent-trigger” for charter schools. So it’s natural that the mother of all school choice reforms—vouchers—is also making a comeback.
Last week a House committee voted to restore Washington, D.C.’s opportunity scholarship program, which lets kids in persistently failing schools attend a private school of the family’s choosing. Joe Lieberman is pushing similar legislation in the Senate, where it enjoys bipartisan support. The White House and teachers unions killed the program in 2009, despite clear evidence of academic gains.
The most promising development is occurring in Pennsylvania, where a state-wide voucher bill supported by new Governor Tom Corbett is moving through the Republican-controlled legislature.
Children in the Keystone State’s 144 worst schools—where students scored in the lowest 5% on recent state exams—would be eligible for a voucher.
[Black] Democratic State Senator Anthony Williams, who represents parts of Philadelphia and Delaware counties, says “We’re spending more money now on a per-capita basis in places like Harrisburg and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh than we’ve ever spent before, and we still have systemically stuck schools and failure.” [H]e tells us, “But the truth is that a lot of the people in the NAACP [who oppose vouchers] don’t acknowledge that they send their own kids to private schools.”
New Hope for Voucher Programs in PA and DC