Utah Takes the Lead
Fifty years ago, economist Milton Friedman suggested vouchers and school choice for high school students, to force all public education to be competitive with high quality public and private schools.
But teacher and government employee unions have fought school choice, saying, "This will only take money from public school budgets as the funds would follow a student leaving public school."
On Feb. 12, Utah adopted a revolutionary school choice bill that would reimburse parents sending their children from public to private schools, through vouchers, between $300 and $3,000 a year, based on their family incomes.
Parents whose children currently attend school would not be eligible unless their income was low enough. But all new kindergartners would qualify so that by 2020 all private school students would be eligible for vouchers.
The bill stipulated that for five years after a voucher student left the public system, the district would get to keep much of the money the state had paid for that student's education. Since the average district gets $3,500 from the state, and the average voucher is expected to be $2,000, a typical school district would gain some $1,500 annually for five years.
Unions vowed to punish the bill's sponsor, as he won re-election by 20 votes. His bill passed 38 to 37 in the state house, sailed through the senate and was signed by the governor.
Gradually the message sank in that choice was all about making public education work, rather than dismantling it. Any system gains from a good dose of fair competition.
National media nearly ignored this event. A columnist's piece in the Wall Street Journal alerted me. This could be a system allowing American children to compete globally in math and science.
Why not in North Carolina?
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