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January 29 2015

Climate Change within New York's Democratic Leadership: Will There Be More Parental Choice in Education?

VIcki Alger

While New York seems to be weathering Winter Storm Juno well, former U.S. Secretary of Education and president emeritus at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute Chester E. Finn, Jr., recently noted another climate shift change in the Empire State. New York. Finn explains in a recent New York Daily News editorial:

Talk about glaciers melting! The high-profile-yet-nearly-immobile education policies and politics of the Empire State may have cracked this week, the result of rapid climate change within New York’s Democratic leadership.

One sign of this change is the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week by the FBI on multiple corruption charges. The other is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform agenda, which he unveiled during his State of the State address, as Finn continues:

But [last] week’s other climatic — perhaps climactic — change significantly boosts the prospects of these reforms and more: Gov. Cuomo’s awesome (and radically union-unfriendly) education-reform agenda as laid out in his State of the State address and budget proposals.

… its single boldest and most surprising item is the governor’s endorsement of a tax-credit scholarship program so that more young New Yorkers can afford to attend private schools. (That’s as close as the state constitution, with its tough “Blaine Amendment” restrictions on direct aid to religious schools, will allow lawmakers to get to a voucher program.)

Possibly it’s all a ploy by Cuomo to roll out something that the teachers’ union hates so much that they’ll wind up having to tolerate some of his other reforms in order to fend off this one. (Such horse trades have occurred before in the history of vouchers and charters.)

Possibly. In the meantime, however, school-choice advocates — and those who care more about the education of children than the interests of adults — should celebrate and applaud.

Cuomo is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Democratic governor ever to propose a program of private-school choice for kids and families in his state. Others (in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, maybe elsewhere) have tolerated this sort of thing when it originated outside of their offices, but this is the first time a state’s Democratic chief exec has taken the lead.

… this, my friends, is about private schooling. That’s a major crack in the ice-cap.

If New York proceeds with this plan, its program would be the 19thsuch program to date, and New York would join 14 other states across the country with tax-credit scholarship programs.

Empirical scientific research spanning decades shows that parental choice scholarship programs improve academic outcomes for participating students (most of whom are disadvantaged or have special needs), including stronger achievement and higher high school and college graduation rates. Additionally, competition for students spurs public schools to improve.

The Supreme Court has ruled such programs are constitutional. Parental choice also saves limited public resources, and is a far more effective and equitable approach than assigning children to schools based on where their parents can afford to live.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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