Friday, June 13, 2008

Possible School Choice Progress in CA

From Edspresso comes this partly encouraging report:


Currently, low-income Hispanic students in Florida outperform average California students on the 4th grade NAEP reading assessment, conducted in English. This in spite of the fact that California per-pupil funding is $2,300 more than Florida's, and California median household income is nearly $12,000 higher.

Such comparisons make it difficult to defend California's public schooling monopoly-especially since not one doomsday scenario predicted by status-quo apologists has ever materialized in any state with parental choice programs. Education monopolists are still repeating their tired myths, but fewer California lawmakers are buying them.

Thanks to a handful of State Assembly members, a record-setting five parental choice bills are being introduced this legislative session. This is the first time in five years that any such legislation has been introduced in the Golden State, and California leads the nation with five parental choice bills introduced this year, only recently joined by Virginia.

The proposed measures would free California children from unsafe schools (Assembly Bill 2361, authored by Rick Keene, R-Chico) and failing schools (AB2739, Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi, and AB2561, Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks). Other proposed laws would also provide parents of private school students with tax credits (AB2605, Nakanishi), and allow parents of special-needs children to choose another school (AB2290, John J. Benoit, R-Riverside) without having to hire an attorney or jump through protracted bureaucratic hoops.


I say partly encouraging because none of the proposals involves vouchers for lower-income families. Two of the bills involve tax-credits (AB2561 and AB2605) which are a step in the right direction but only really benefit people who make enough income to pay substantial taxes. The other three bills make it easier to choose another school but do not provide funding. In the short term these sorts of bills will probably not do much to help the students most in need and that fact will be used by opponents to block further attampts at school choice, as they have done in the past with other similar proposals.

Still, it has been many years since this topic has been a live issue in California politics and if the authors are correct that this represents a trend, I am all for it.

Read the whole article to find some encouraging comments about successful programs elsewhere, especially in Georgia.

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