Soon we will know how school choice really affects an education system.
While numerous states and cities have experimented with school choice programs, Utah will be the first to create a state-wide voucher program that will truly put the concept to the test.
Opponents and proponents of school choice programs should celebrate. We will finally get some answers to the great debates about the programs affects. Those who have argued that school choice will decimate the public school system and doom children to substandard education in less regulated public schools should welcome the chance to prove their case. They aren’t celebrating, of course likely because they know that the facts are on the other side.
John Fund has an excellent write up of school choices progress in Utah in today’s Opinion Journal. He details how school choice champions won the day through their persistence and directly inviting opponents to debate the facts. In the end, even some Utah legislators who used to oppose school choice voted for the bill. He writes:
“The choice bill would have gone down to defeat had Rep. Brad Last not changed his vote. Just last month, Mr. Last, himself a former public-school official, voted against the bill as a member of the Education Committee. Last Thursday, he voted “yes,” prompting gasps from the visitor’s gallery.
“I believe history will demonstrate to supporters and detractors that this is a good choice,” he told a hushed chamber. “To those of you in public education who want to kill me right now, I’m really sorry. I understand your pain. I would ask you, go read this bill, and don’t say a word to me until you read this bill.”
Another surprise supporter of the bill was freshman Rep. Keith Grover, a vice principal at a junior high school, who said during the floor debate that “everyone knows how I make a living” and that he had wrestled with his conscience on how to vote. He said he believed public education needed the innovation that choice could bring.”
In just about every other area of life, Americans recognize that having more choice is a good thing. We even already know this is the case in education. Imagine if some politician tried to replace our current university system with one that assigned all students to the nearest college instead of encourage students to consider options across the country. Competition should bring greater innovation, more diversity, and efficiency to our K-12 education system. And we will soon know for sure by seeing what happens in Utah.