In March I suggested that 2010 might be the year of school choice. As we prepare to usher in 2011, its a good time to reflect back on what’s happened and what we can hope for and expect for the new year.
The states that seemed hopeful in 2010 were: Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland.
There was action in Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Florida and Oklahoma were the only significant successes. Florida represents an important victory in the fourth largest state in the union. With strong bi-partisan support and a huge rally this year, Florida has raised the scholarship allocation and implemented a floating cap on the number of vouchers allowed, so that as soon as applications come close to the cap, it automatically goes up. So essentially, there is no cap. Oklahoma has followed the Florida model in passing a special needs voucher bill, which can likely be the gateway into broader choice efforts.
The rest of the story of 2010 was not so rosy. Though Illinois and Maryland both had parental choice bills pass the Senate, both died in the House. This is a partial victory, in that it showed choice is politically viable and raised awareness of the issue. It is likely that efforts will continue in these states.
Virginia did not introduce a bill, and though New Jersey was pushing for one, Governor Christie stood firm against a watered down version, though didn’t have the votes to get the stronger bill he wanted.
Pennsylvania had a significant set back with a budget reduction to their tuition tax-credit program, but they are fighting to get the funding levels back up and are hopeful to be able to do so in the near future.
So how about 2011? I’m hopeful.
The States to watch include Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. And let’s not forget D.C.
Colorado: There has been a bubbling up of interest in Douglas county, a suburban area with good public schools, not the norm for a choice experiment. But there is philosophical support for choice, and supporters think it could plant the seed in Colorado. Here is a nice article from the Cato Institute.
Florida: As I noted in a recent post, Florida is powering ahead as the biggest and best school choice state in the country. Increasingly seen as a national model of effective education policy, Florida is poised to continue its path as the leader in providing educational options to its residents.
Indiana: Also mentioned in a recent post, Indiana is looking VERY GOOD to make major gains in its push for school choice. Heavily influenced by the successes of Florida and with a perfect political climate to make major changes, Governor Daniels is ready to leave his legacy in Indiana and show what he could do as a Presidential contender.
Illinois: I think we are in for a long fight in Chicago. But Senator Meeks, who introduced and fought for the bill in 2010 will bring this issue to Chicago’s Mayoral race, making the issue a live one again in 2011.
Nevada: With a Governor supportive of vouchers and a favorable legal context, Nevada could have a new program.
New Jersey: Governor Christie continues to be a powerhouse in Jersey, battling the bully teacher unions and winning. Though the unions at one point spent $6 million in attack adds in two months, polls suggest that he is winning the war of words by speaking clearly and exposing how the teachers unions operate. Check out the Youtube videos, which have become something of a sensation, of Christie taking on the teachers unions.
Massachusetts: Something of a long shot for parental choice, even Massachusetts is making a push for a tax-credit program, another sign that school choice is spreading and increasingly enjoys bi-partisan support and recognition that it works.
Ohio: Finally having hit the cap in terms of applicants for existing vouchers spots, Ohio may be poised to expand its state-wide voucher program.
Pennsylvania: With both candidates for Governor supporting school choice expansion, Pennsylvania appears to have sufficient bi-partisan support for its tax-credit program to at least regain the funding that was lost, if not to expand funding levels for its scholarships.
Virginia: Likely a top pick for a new program, I think Virginia will make a push for a new scholarship tax-credit bill with strong support from Governor McDonnell.
Wisconsin: Home of the first voucher program in Milwaukee, rumblings are beginning about a possible expansion to this already very strong program.
DC: And let’s not forget the District of Columbia and the battle over the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. As I predicted, the D.C. OSP will rise again, hopefully bigger than before.
And there could be more. A report from the Foundation for Educational Choice reveals that:
Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey, and New York decidedly favor charter schools, tax-credit scholarships, and vouchers…
Many of these states are long-shots, but it is notable that efforts are underway in so many states. I think it is likely that we will see victories in Indiana, Virginia, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. in 2011, and perhaps others. Between the new political climate, the constant flow of ed reform documentaries and national press, and the growing acceptance of parental choice in states around the country, I’m bullish for 2011.