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School Choice Week is almost over — now what?


National School Choice week ends on Feb. 1, but education reform efforts across the country will continue. There’s no doubt that school choice advocates are well on their way to transforming the education system — but as they look toward the future, advocates should also consider supporting stronger accountability measures for school spending.

School Choice Week, organized by a “coalition of individuals, schools, and organizations,” is a week-long event focused on increased school choice and variety. This year, it included more than “5,500 independently planned events” hosted in every state. The week was also championed by elected officials on multiple levels of government.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) said that America spends more on education than most countries, but many countries lead America in education quality. He, among others, believes school choice is the solution.

“Choice rewards success and weeds out stagnation, inefficiency, and failure,” Bush, who is also chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, explained in an article for National Review. “This is why school choice is critical to the education-reform movement.”

It also turns out that poor students, black students and students for whom English is not their first language benefit most from charter school education.

“It’s time to accept that a parent’s seal of approval trumps the government’s seal of approval,” Bush wrote. “To quote former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice: ‘If I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you’re going to get a good education, we’ve got a real problem.’”

The indicator of any movement’s success is the change it causes. Numerous educational administrators highlighted the successful school choice options in their areas, while in other areas school choice legislation is making its way through legislatures. Although some school choice legislation recently failed in Colorado, the outlook is largely bright.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) proposed new plans to redirect about $35 billion in existing federal education funds in order to bolster school choice programs in different states.

Alexander’s proposal, the Scholarships for Kids Act, would delegate $2,100 to children of low-income families, to be used at their preferred school. He believes it will hold educators accountable and help students obtain better education, using financial aid in higher education as a model.

Scott’s CHOICE Act would function similarly, but focuses on students who have disabilities, those from military homes, and those in D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship program.

In Alaska, there is widespread support for a change to the state Constitution that would promote school choice. That alteration would allow public money to go to private schools. In Oregon, the Education Equity Emergency Act is gaining traction. It would be particularly beneficial for students with special needs.

While the emphasis is being placed on school choice, there is little talk about specific measures to hold schools accountable for the money they spend. In higher education, which is the model for many of these school choice efforts, money is wasted on luxuries like rock climbing walls and spas.

As John Stossel, host of Stossel, explains:

In the last 30 years, inflation is up 160%, but tuition costs are up 750%.

It’s because colleges have no incentive to cut prices when students can get money from government. Federal aid, adjusted for inflation, increased from 32 billion in 1987, to 169 billion in 2010.

School choice efforts can fix some problems, and competition lowers prices and increases quality. But government funding, by nature, can throw a wrench in the plan unless accountability measures are implemented.

These measures are desperately needed, regardless of the fate of school choice. K-12 schools are already funded more than well enough and are masters of wasting money.

The school choice movement is focused on accountability, reform and choice. The choice efforts are succeeding, and solutions may even be implemented on the national level. Developing and promoting effective measures to hold schools accountable for their spending would be a great addition to the movement.

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