Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's at Stake for School Choice in 2012

We’re not too into new year’s resolutions here at School Choice Now!, but we’re always looking forward, and we’re excited about the education reform prospects in 2012.  With the breakthrough year that was 2011, which included seven new and 11 expanded private school choice programs, we’re working hard to make sure that in 2012, we can keep the momentum going.

Every state has the chance to create a publicly-funded private school choice program, but here are the states to watch in 2012:

  • New Jersey: With the support of Governor Chris Christie and championed by Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. (R) and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D), the Opportunity Scholarship Act (OSA) would create a five-year corporate tax credit scholarship program allowing low-income children stuck in failing schools to attend the school of their parents’ choice.  The post-election legislative session ends on January 9, but neither legislative chamber has voted on the OSA.  If the legislature doesn’t take up the bill in the lame duck session, we’re committed to making sure that the bill is a priority in the 2012-13 legislative session. Take a look at a video below that capture's just what's at stake in New Jersey:

    • Pennsylvania: The Keystone State had a year of highs and lows in terms of educational choice.  But 2012 is another shot at creating real educational reform.  Senate Bill 1, which passed the Senate—but was not taken up in the House—created a statewide voucher program for children in the bottom five percent of Pennsylvania schools and increase funding for the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.  The governor supports the bill and with bipartisan support in the legislature, it’s time the two chambers work to get a bill passed.
    • North Carolina: With a great first step accomplished in 2011 (the state created an individual tuition tax credit for parents of students with special needs), the state is looking to create more educational options with equal opportunity scholarships via a corporate scholarship tax credit program.
    • New Mexico: In 2012, New Mexico is poised to create one—maybe two—school choice programs. With strong Democratic sponsors, an education reform-oriented governor, and public support (77 percent of New Mexico voters support a scholarship tax credit program for special needs students and 62 percent of registered voters favor a similar program for low- and middle-income students), New Mexico could be the next breakout state in education reform.
    • Virginia: Legislators in the Dominion State are looking to create a corporate scholarship tax credit program.  Last week, we told you about Delegate Jimmie Massie, who is championed the legislation last year and is likely to lead the charge in 2012.
    But new programs won’t be the only story in 2012.

    Expanded Programs: We’re looking to Louisiana to expand both of their voucher programs.  The Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence Program, which currently serves students living in New Orleans Parish, could be expanded to Jefferson Parish or even statewide.  In addition, advocates are working to take the pilot out of the School Choice Pilot Program for Certain Students with Exceptionalities.

    Reaching Caps: The cap on student enrollments expands this year in two programs:

    • Wisconsin’s Racine Parental Choice Program doubles to 500 students in the 2012-13 school year.
    • Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program (which had the highest enrollment ever in a first-year program) will allow up to 15,000 students to participate in the program.

    New Programs Start Serving Students:

    The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, which serves students identified as having a disability in the Buckeye State, is slated to begin in 2012.  The program offers scholarships of up to $20,000 for special needs students to attend the school of their parents’ choice.  The program could serve as many as 12,000 students.

    Oklahoma’s Equal Opportunity Scholarships, which provides low- and middle-income students with scholarships, to set to begin as individuals and corporations donate to scholarship-granting organizations.

    Beyond private school choice, we’re hoping to see more states remove barriers on charter schools, enact parent-trigger legislation, and create education savings accounts.

    Keep an eye on School Choice Now!, as well as our website and that of the Alliance for School Choice, for all the 2012 developments as the year progresses.

    - American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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