January 27, 1999

January 27, 1999 | News Releases on Education

Another 'Banner Year' for School Choice

WASHINGTON, JAN. 27, 1999-And now, some good news: School choice programs that let parents decide which schools their children will attend made significant headway in 1998.

That's the finding of Heritage Foundation education researchers Nina Shokraii Rees and Sarah Youssef in the introduction to "School Choice 1999: What's Happening In The States," released today. (The full report will be released next month.) Among the highlights:

  • On Nov. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Milwaukee's school choice program. By a vote of 8-1, the Court let stand a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling allowing parents to send their children to religious schools under Milwaukee's school choice program. The state court found that the program does not violate the First Amendment's "establishment clause" because taxpayer dollars go to parents, not directly to the schools.

  • Entrepreneurs Ted Forstmann and John Walton created the $100 million Children's Scholarship Fund (CSF). The Fund helps low-income students in 40 cities nationwide by providing scholarships to attend private schools.

  • A major new study found that under New York City's privately sponsored school choice program, students in private schools scored higher in reading and math than a control group of students in public schools. Professor Paul Peterson of Harvard University showed that private-school students average four points higher in reading and six points higher in math on standardized tests.

  • Five more states- Idaho, Missouri, New York, Utah and Virginia-passed charter school legislation. Only 16 states now lack these independently run public schools.

The only setback in 1998 was President Clinton's decision to veto two important school-choice bills: The D.C. Student Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would have given 2,000 low-income students vouchers worth up to $3,200 to attend the school of their parents' choice, and a Senate bill that would have let parents contribute up to $2,000 a year to tax-free education savings accounts for any education-related expense at a school of choice.

An increasing number of community leaders around the country are embracing school choice as well. "All citizens, including those in the inner-city, deserve a quality education and vouchers offer the best hope for delivering it to every child," the Rev. Floyd H. Flake wrote in the latest issue of Policy Review, the Heritage Foundation's magazine.

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