Different Paths to Better Schools
People working for education reform generally can be divided into
these two views:
- Those who feel it is possible to turn around a school district
so as to commit to high academic standards,
research-based teaching methods, and curriculum-centered programs.
- Those who feel that the bureaucracy behind theory-based,
student-centered schools is too entrenched and widespread for real
reform, and that the only avenue for improvement
is parent choice and marketplace dynamics.
The Illinois Loop does not specifically endorse either point of view,
and "loopers" include good folks representing both positions.
This is a reasonable balance, since most of the "work within the system"
people feel that if that doesn't work, choice is the next step,
and most of the pro-choice people feel that they'd be happier
if there were at least some public schools in their areas that offered
strong academic programs.
The late Al Shankar, president of the Americn Federation of Teachers, was well aware
that the diminishing quality of government schools would inevitably lead to demands
for parent choice:
"I think that we will get -- and deserve -- the end of public education through
some sort of privatization scheme if we don't behave differently.
Unfortunately, very few people believe that yet. They talk about it,
and they don't like it, but they're not ready to change and stop doing
the things that brought them to this point."
When public schools fail to offer what parents want, parents look for other choices.
As one mother wrote to us,
-- AFT President Al Shanker, at a Pew Forum, Whistler, British Columbia, August 1993
Until public education gets the message that they are NOT helping children learn
how to think and write reasonably well so they can express themselves
and be understood, I cannot avail myself of the "free" public education for
my children ... it just costs too much.
Is a Government Bureaucracy Necessary?
From the BBC television series Yes Minister, in an episode called "National Education Service", January 21, 1988:
The Case for Parent Choice
Here's the case for parent choice, in a short excerpt from
the ABC News special Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids, January 13, 2006, narrated by John Stossel:
History of Parent Choice in America
Fact Sheet on Education in Illinois, Heartland Foundation:
For a comprehensive roundup of stats on education in Illinois, as well as recent news and developments regarding
charters and parent choice in Illinois,
see this page from the Heritage Foundation.
School Choice: 2006 Progress Report
by Dan Lips and Evan Feinberg, Heritage Foundation, September 18, 2006. Excerpt:
"Just a decade ago, only
a few school choice programs existed. Today, a dozen states and the
District of Columbia have private school choice programs. In 2006,
eight states -- Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Utah, and Wisconsin -- enacted new school choice programs or
expanded existing programs. By 2007, as many as 150,000 students will
be participating in publicly funded tuition scholarship programs. As of August 2006:
- Seven states -- Arizona, Florida, Maine, Ohio,
Vermont, Utah, and Wisconsin -- and the District of Columbia have
taxpayer-funded scholarships to help students attend private
elementary or secondary schools of choice;
- Seven states -- Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota,
Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island -- have tax credits or deductions for
education expenses, including private school tuition, or incentives
for contributions to scholarship programs;
- Forty states and the District of Columbia have charter school laws;
- Public school choice within or between districts is guaranteed in 15
by Paul Jacob, September 17, 2006.
"For years American proponents of school choice struggled with
competing interpretations of the First Amendment. The establishment
clause could be construed to prohibit the granting to students and
parents money that could be spent on religious schools. Separation of
church and state, you see.
After years of debate, in 2002 the Rehnquist court, in Zelman v.
Simmons-Harris, wisely settled the matter. The court saw that with
school vouchers there was no establishment of any one denomination
over another, or any religion over any other -- or none -- since the
monies were distributed entirely through the choices of citizens.
Citizens could change their mind, and it was their choices that
directed where the money went. No problem. Case, as they say, closed."
School Choice and the Courts
by David W. Kirkpatrick. Excerpt:
"Once upon a time, it was common for schools in the United States
to be operated by religious or other groups and to receive funding from the government.
That chapter in American history was gradually rewritten, so that by the 20th century
the practice had largely died out and newly-discovered constitutional restrictions
on such aid had been put in place."
This article goes on to dissect a series of Supreme Court
decisions through the 20th century that confirmed the supremacy of parents in making
education decisions about their children.
by David W. Kirkpatrick. The notion of a "wall of
separation between church and state" lies at the root of much opposition to the
right of parents to decide where to send their own children to school. As is his
specialty, David W. Kirkpatrick gives some perspective on this. Excerpts:
"Whatever one's view about a 'wall,' in the 215 years since the
Constitution was adopted no Supreme Court has ever found a general
student-aid program to be unconstitutional. Thus a voucher 'brick' was not
removed, because it wasn't there. It was a figment of the opponents'
rhetorical imagination. ...
"The 'wall' comment originated in a January 1801 letter by Thomas
Jefferson to the Danbury Connecticut Baptist Association after he had been
elected president but before he took office. Jefferson was not at the
constitutional convention of 1787, he was in France. Neither his phrase nor
the individual words 'wall,' 'separation,' or 'church,' appear in the
constitution, and a remark in a personal letter by a president-elect, even
Thomas Jefferson, has no legal standing."
A Pierce-ing Supreme Court Decision
by David W. Kirkpatrick. Excerpt:
"June 1 is the anniversary date of one of the most fundamental decisions
ever rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in its more than 200 year history.
That was Pierce vs. Society of Sisters that declared parents 'have the right,
coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare' their children for
additional obligations. The 9-0 decision not only remains the law of the
land but has never been challenged and is not likely to be."
Thomas Jefferson - Icon or Iconoclast?
by David W. Kirkpatrick: "Few voices from the American past are cited more
frequently by the public school establishment as being one of their own than
that of Thomas Jefferson. ... One advantage of interpreting those no longer
with us is that ... it is possible to pretend they said what we would like
them to have said rather than what they actually did say.
Let's review some things Jefferson actually said."
- In The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine proposed a plan of universal
education using direct payments to parents, who would use these
funds to pay for their children's education. Read a
A full understanding of the legal status of parent choice
needs to include the history of the "Blaine Amendments." In the first century of
this country's existence, schools were operated by a variety of organizations,
including religious ones. But by the 1870s, a wave of
immigration from predominanently Catholic countries sparked a hateful backlash.
Against this backdrop, James G. Blaine, an anti-Catholic
bigot and Speaker of the House, proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban funding of schools
that were operated by "sectarian" religious entities. In other words,
it was perfectly fine to give public funding
to a school that taught generalized (i.e., non-sectarian) Protestant Christian beliefs,
but funding for a school
run by any Catholic organization was to be outlawed. Blaine eventually ran for president
after being nominated at a convention that railed against "rum, Romanism and rebellion."
(Interestingly, he lost the election by losing a single state, New York, by a margin of
only 1,047 votes.)
Blaine and his ilk never did succeed in getting his hate-filled amendment added to the
federal constitution. However, the language of the Blaine Amendment was added to many
state constitutions, including that of the state of Illinois. It is for that reason
that state funding of private schools is rare in this country, although it is
commonplace around the world.
To really understand the history and political situation of religious schools,
and in many cases of private schools in general,
and obstacles to child-centered funding,
you have to start by learning about the "Blaine amendments."
In Chicago, there is a
James G. Blaine School, at 1420 W. Grace Street,
and in Peoria, there is a
Blaine Sumner Middle School.
It's hard to imagine
that in this day and age there still exist schools named in honor of a vicious bigot!
- Here is
Illinois' own "Blaine Amendment": See Section 3 of Article X
of our Illinois state constitution.
The Bigotry of Blaine Amendments by David W. Kirkpatrick.
This article looks at the man himself, James G. Blaine.
Anti-Catholicism and the History of Catholic School Funding,
The Catholic League, February, 2000
Vouchers and Anti-Catholic Bias, Frank Monaldo, March 17, 2002.
"...why is there so much concern about the constitutionality of
vouchers going to younger students?
Why is aid to primary and secondary students treated differently
from similar aid to college students? Part of the problem is a misreading of history.
The argument is that an ... understanding of the First Amendment [requires] that funds
could only go to non-sectarian schools. ... this history [is] far more clouded.
The term 'non-sectarian' in 19th century legislation did not mean 'secular,'
as one might use the term today. It really meant non-denominational Protestant.
Public schools in the 19th century had no problems instructing in
Protestant beliefs or using the King James Version of the Bible."
Anti-Catholicism and the History of Catholic School Funding by Robert P. Lockwood, Fenruary 2000
N.Y. Bishops & The Blaine Truth, New York Post, September 6, 2002
www.blaineamendments.org: website of the Becket Fund for
The Pain of Blaine Is On the Wane? by David W. Kirkpatrick:
"That  bigotry is finally receiving court attention."
Bio of James G. Blaine
Bigotry -- A Threat to Parental Choice by Phillip W. De Vous
Thinking About Parent Choice
ABCs of School Choice (PDF), The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation:
Here's an extremely attractive and thorough introduction to parent
choice issues, covering the possible alternatives, terminology, legal issues, financial issues
and current status.
School Choice Mythbusters: A very well-written and attractively formatted
guide to concerns about parent choice, prepared by the
Organization for Quality Education in Canada.
- If The World Were Like the Public Education System
by Kevin Killion.
What if our current system for public education served as a model to re-design
our food stores? Our highway system? Computers? Soccer leagues? Car delearships?
Find out here!
Real Change Requires Real Competition and Real Choice
by Chuck Muth, Nevada Appeal, March 21, 2008.
"Have you ever noticed an intersection where there's a McDonald's on
one corner and a Burger King on another? Or an Exxon station located
directly across the street from a Chevron station? Or a Holiday Inn a
block up the street from a Hampton Inn? Do you ever wonder why that
is? I mean, why don't these businesses just operate like our
government schools: only one per neighborhood?
Because competition works. It improves service. It lowers prices for
consumers. And it winnows out bad operators. Public schools, on the
other hand, don't like competition. In fact, they're scared to death
of it. Ever wonder why that is?"
- "The reason so many charter schools sprouted in Arizona so quickly is that,
once again, we bypassed the school districts. The early charter movement floundered a
decade ago because most states forced schools to obtain charters from local school boards.
No surprise that charters weren't springing up fast:
this would be like Burger King asking for permission to sell Whoppers in the local McDonald's.
There's just not going to be any enthusiasm to help out the competition."
-- Lisa Graham Keegan, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Arizona
Renew Illinois Foundation Announces Education Reform Plan:
"Illinois taxpayers have greatly increased funding for government run
schools during the past several decades, yet 80 percent of our school
districts operate with their budgets in deficit. According to studies
by the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, two-thirds of all Illinois
students can't read at their grade level, three quarters can't write
proficiently, and three quarters are below proficiency in civics.
Only 50 percent of students graduate from high school in Chicago."
Brown Decision Misses the Point, letter by our own Dave Ziffer, Daily Herald, May 23, 2004.
"On the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, we are
engaging in a media orgy of recollection, while ironically
acknowledging that the decision doesn't seem to have accomplished
much educationally. ...
"While the majority of us provide more than 99
percent of public school financing, we have little say in the
operation of the schools because our funding is unconditionally
guaranteed by the states, and consequently, we have no leverage.
Meanwhile, a small handful of extremely radical educational
demagogues controls our curriculum and our school policy through the
application of a relatively small amount of foundation- and
union-supplied conditional funding, to which the schools respond all
"Why parents aren't rioting in the streets over this is beyond me.
Until we move to some rational funding solution (such as vouchers)
that frees us from the dictatorial powers of the public school
system, which can still tell almost all of us exactly where our kids
will go to school whether we like it or not, the celebration of the
Brown decision will continue to ring hollow."
Separating School and State
by Jeff Jacoby, Columnist, Boston Globe, June 12, 2005. Excerpts:
"Once there was a solid consensus about how public schools should be
run. ... But as [recent] battles ... make clear, that day is past.
From issues of sexuality and religion to the broad themes of US
history and politics, public opinion is fractured. Secular parents
square off against believers, supporters of homosexual marriage
against traditionalists, those stressing 'safe sex' against those
who emphasize abstinence. Each wants its views reflected in the
classroom. No longer is there a common understanding of the mission
of public education. To the extent that one camp's vision prevails,
parents in the opposing camp are embittered. And there is no prospect
that this will change -- not as long as the government remains in
charge of educating American children.
Which is why it's time to put an end to government control of the
All Schools Are Public Schools:
A case for state aid to private education and homeschooling parents
by Jason Boffetti. From the forward:
"Training good citizens is the public purpose all schools serve,
whether we call them public or private. We have been mired for too
long in a sterile debate about which schools will benefit from reform
proposals. Boffetti recasts the debate so that it focuses on its
proper goal: children. If we truly want the best for them, and
ultimately for our nation, we will help parents choose the best
education currently available from whatever source."
The School Choice Movement's Greatest Failure
by Andrew J. Coulson, Cato Institute, July 16, 2006. This is a valuable, thoughtful article
on the role of parent choice, and how choice programs should best be considered. The author
takes a close look at recent studies on voucher programs, and finds them off-the-mark
in evaluating what really matters.
- An excellent list of sources and links on school choice is available at the
School Choice Research Center of the Institute for Justice.
Texas: Proposed Model Legislation for Child-Centered Education Funding,
Texas Justice Foundation.
A model bill drafted by staff of the Texas Justice Foundation to allow state education funds to
"follow the child".
School Choice Issue Suite: Model Legislation, Research, Commentary, and More
compiled by The Heartland Institute. There is a tremendous amount of
information on school choice carried by this website, or provided
via additional links. There are large sections on research and policy
positions on choice, as well as extensive information on model
legislation and avenues for working for choice.
- The Heartland Plan for Illinois,
Model School Choice Legislation, Heartland Institute, Heartland Policy Study No. 98, May 2002.
Opinion polls indicate that significant majorities of the American public
support allowing parents to choose the schools their children attend
without financial penalty. With a major U.S. Supreme Court decision
on school vouchers expected in the summer of 2002, now is a good time
to ask what an ideal voucher program would look like. This detailed analysis
from the Heartland Institute is available here:
- Articles about Milwaukee's program of parent choice:
Parents Demand Schools That Work
by James P. Lucier, Insight Magazine, September 19, 2003
- Progress on School Choice in the States
by Krista Kafer, The Heritage Foundation, July 10, 2003:
available in an
executive summary, or in
I Can Tell You: School Choice Works
by Greg Forster, July 28, 2005. "The biggest difficulty for defenders
of the government's school monopoly is the overwhelming consensus in
the empirical research finding that school choice works. They deal
with this little problem primarily by ignoring the evidence and
changing the subject, but it also helps that they have a stable of
professors ready to distort, confuse, and obfuscate the research."
School Choice and Adolescence in America
by Michael Strong, May 08, 2006.
"[In] the 1980s Brookings Institution researchers John Chubb and Terry
Moe ... looked carefully at public and private schools and concluded
that, in fact, [Milton] Friedman had been correct: the private sector was
more efficient and innovative than the bureaucratic
government-managed sector. Despite their liberal Brookings base,
they broke ranks with the Democrats and advocated school vouchers in
their 1990 book, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools. ...
"Adolescence in America is largely a disaster. [One writer says,] 'If one had set out
to create a culture purposefully damaging to children, you couldn't
do much better than America at the end of the 20th century.'
[Another] states, 'All parents feel an ominous
sense -- like distant rumbles of thunder moving closer and closer --
that even their child could be caught in the deluge of adolescent
dysfunction sweeping the nation.' ...
"Parents, choosing among educational entrepreneurs, could solve the
problem of adolescent health far more quickly and more effectively
than can academics trying to guide public policy."
The Neutrality Principle:
Can states prohibit vouchers for religious schooling?
by James E. Ryan, Education Next, Fall 2003.
International Law on Parental Choice in Education, Federation of Independent School Associations
- The Illinois Supreme Court heard a case
Wickham vs. Byrne, Docket Nos. 92048)
in which grandparents whose
married child had died were now seeking visitation rights with their grandchildren,
over the objections of the surviving spouse. Part of the court's ruling may have
implications for future school choice cases. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled,
"a fit parent's constitutionally protected liberty interest to direct the care,
custody, and control of his or her children mandates that parents -- not judges
-- should be the ones to decide with whom their children will and will
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige speech to the
national conference of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO),
February 28, 2002. Excerpt: "While America enjoys a voyage of choice and freedom,
our education system missed the boat. It's surprising that a country that says
it values education hasn't powered it up with the energy of choice. But it's not
just a surprise. It's a disgrace. ... Giving parents greater choices and
kids more chances does not hurt public education, it strengthens it.
It brings us closer to equality."
- Graduation Wish
by Lisa Graham Keegan. Excerpt: "One of the most compelling discussions of my life
occurred in a small alternative school located deep in the inner city.
I was speaking with a student's mother when ... she asked me what I look for in a school.
I spoke of high academic expectations, respect for my children, and a positive school
atmosphere. Summed it up, I thought. Her response floored me. She told me that she
wanted her son, Chopper, to be alive at the end of high school. Period.
An Unfair Grade for Vouchers by Jay P. Greene, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
"Some people dwell on emptiness even in glasses that are three-quarters full.
That's how it is with assessments of the research on school choice.
Although the research supporting school-voucher programs has greater breadth
and depth than research on almost any other education policy,
opponents of choice continue to chant their mantra that the results are mixed and inconclusive.
... if one steps back from each particular feud and sees the consistently positive results
and the absence of any negative results from voucher research, an honest assessment would
note the remarkable strength in the evidence supporting vouchers.
There's at least enough encouraging evidence to support trying another pilot program,
like the one being proposed in Washington, D.C."
Protectionism Doesn't Serve Schools Well
by Amity Shlaes, Financial Times, March 9, 2004. Excerpt:
"[There is] too much protectionism in a specific U.S. industry:
education. ... The problem lies
with workaday publicly funded schools, especially in urban areas.
"These are the factories that produce the national workforce. Yet, for
the past quarter-century, they have had little competition and have
enjoyed a lack of scrutiny. The result has been predictable. Schools
have blithely accepted increasing inputs--namely, funding--even as
the quality of their output has decreased, to the point where
students cannot handle Excel spreadsheets, or learn to, and cannot
locate Indonesia or even adopt a polite telephone manner. Most of the
time, the education sector has disguised its failings with a trick so
dirty other sectors would not even try it: the open doctoring of
industry standards--in this case, the measures used to assess the
quality of U.S. schooling. ...
"Of course, most Americans do not consider the education industry to
be protected, or even an industry. They think about schools with the
softer part of their brain that deals with home, pride and community.
Still, applying a cold trade analysis to schools goes a long way
toward explaining those [international comparisons] ...
"The first protectionist feature of the U.S. education business is
the most obvious: Public schools are a monopoly. ...
"Unions--another feature typical of protectionism--are one reason for
the delay in expanding choice. School unions are large--the National
Education Association, the biggest, has 2.7 million members. They
funnel millions to politicians, who in turn sustain the public
schools' monopoly by failing to pass reforms to open the market."
Four Reasons Why The Childless Need School Choice,
March 29, 2005. A thought-compelling essay arguing why those without children
have strong interests at stake in school choice.
The Politics of Choice: Where are School Choice's Friends? (PDF)
by Charles J. Sykes,
Wisconsin Interest, 2004, Vol. 13 No. 2
School Choice Misinformation: Why Good Journalism Matters (PDF)
by Susan Mitchell,
Wisconsin Interest, 2003, Vol. 12 No. 2
Lies and Distortions About Choice: Setting the Record Straight (PDF)
by Howard Fuller and Kaleem Caire,
Wisconsin Interest, 2001, Vol. 10 No. 3
Between Scylla and Charybdis: The Challenges Ahead for Parental School Choice (PDF)
by Daniel M. McKinley,
Wisconsin Interest, 1998, Vol. 7 No. 2
- Much of the anger over school issues is a direct consequence of
bureaucrats telling families that all children in this area must go to
this school and all children in that area must go to that school.
That means that each school must try to please all of the parents
whose children it serves, despite their widely different needs and
For more on that, see our page on Needless Conflicts.
Parent Choice vs NCLB
The Crash of Top-Down Reform? by John E. Chubb, August 4-11, 2003.
"If school reform comes in waves, the latest, and some would say
greatest, wave of reform may have just crested. The idea that public
education can be reformed by setting high standards and holding
schools accountable for reaching them is showing unmistakable signs
of crashing. Public education is finding ways to comply with
accountability standards without really improving. ...
Before standards and accountability come crashing down altogether,
policymakers should remember that there is another wave of reform
that has also been sweeping the nation ... school choice. Give families the right and the means
to choose for their children schools that are achieving -- other
traditional public schools, new public charter schools, even private
schools -- and force schools to compete for their students. Parents will
select schools that meet high standards. Schools that try to skirt
standards will not be chosen and will be driven out of business.
Through school choice, the nation might ride the accountability wave
to higher standards and scores.
Accountable Schools are Accountable to Parents
by Krista Kafer.
"Everyone wants schools to be accountable. The question is to whom
should they be accountable--the government or the parents. President
Bush's original plan to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (ESEA) required schools to be accountable to both. To gauge
school quality, the plan required yearly testing of all students in
third through eighth grades in reading and math. Schools that
perpetually failed to raise achievement faced administrative
penalties and poor students would be given a chance to go to another
school, public or private. The plan emphasized accountability through
government regulation and accountability through parent choice.
By the end of the legislative process, regulation won out as the
favored method of accountability. The No Child Left Behind Act
contained only a withered version of choice--students in failing
schools could attend other public schools in the district or purchase
tutorial help. While parents would be guaranteed information on their
schools through the law's testing and reporting provisions, they
would be given little help to act upon it."
The Education Revolution America Needs
by Eugene Hickok, Washington Post, October 27, 2006
"Even if Secretary Spellings were right that NCLB is 99.9% pure,
it still would not be the formula for what ails American education. ...
NCLB is simply not up to the task. ...
The deeper problem is the existing institutional architecture of
American public education. No Child Left Behind erects an
accountability system atop the status quo ... But public education
governance, structure, finance, management and politics remain
The root of the problem isn't in the law; it's in the American
education system. It can't get there from here.
Today's public education system essentially tells parents: 'This is
the school your child will attend. This is when we teach, what we
teach and who will teach.' In short, it puts the system ahead of the
We need an education environment that listens and responds when a
parent says: 'This is my child; these are my hopes and dreams for my
child, his needs and interests, his strengths and weaknesses. Why
should I entrust my child to your care?' We need educational
opportunities that put the child first. ...
Newly minted accountability systems have school administrators
gagging and leave too many parents confused, resulting in too many
failing to take responsibility for the future of our children.
As for ownership, our public schools have become institutions of
government, serving bureaucracies rather than the public. It's as
though the system owns us rather than we owning the system. ...
[I]t would be a mistake to think that No Child Left Behind delivers the
education system we need. At best, it will help us understand just
how far we have to go, fueling our frustrations and disappointments
along the way. NCLB is a wake-up call. What's needed is an American
You Only Have Choice If a Choice Exists
The Supply Side of Educational Choice: Providing Capital for Successful Private and Parochial Schools (PDF)
by Martin Sweet, WPRI Report, December 2003 (Vol. 16 No. 9).
"What has been lacking, however, is an examination of the 'supply side' of
school choice. How do successful private and parochial
schools expand their infrastructure to meet the demands of
a rising number of students desperate to escape a public
school system that doesn't work?"
Traditional Schools, Progressive Schools: Do Parents Have A Choice?
by Dr. Louis Chandler.
This extremely valuable and unique research study on the educational
direction of public and Catholic schools was conducted by Louis Chandler, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh.
It's a carefully designed,
richly detailed, and extremely compelling study on the actual educational
practices of 336 public, Catholic, and independent schools in Ohio.
The conclusions are real eye-openers.
The Black Market in School Choice
"Right now, the quality of your children's education depends on your address"|
-- Tom Zafiratos, Superintendent, District 79 (Pennoyer) in Norridge, IL
"These people need to go where they're supposed to go."|
-- Beverley Clark, Wake County school board, North Carolina
"Experts say there are many reasons why parents might give the wrong address to get into a school district.
They could be looking for the best schools for their children or for a particular program they cannot get back in their home district."|
-- Illinois Association of School Boards,
School Districts Get Tough
by Amy Merrick and Joe Barrett, Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2008.
"Some school districts, hoping to control costs and prevent
overcrowding, are intensifying efforts to make sure students actually
live where they are registered. ... William Beitler, a private
investigator specializing in address verification for school districts in the Chicago area ...
says he has contracts with 32 districts,
up from 23 last year, and his caseload has increased to
7,000 from 3,000. He claims he will save districts a total of $12.2
million next year through removing students."
- William Beitler's
"We service over fifty (50) school districts and have the investigators highly trained to be able to accommodate our districts.
We have three specific residency programs which we use to try to provide a variety of programs for schools of all sizes ..."
Schools Try to Draw Line on Residency: Kids Barred From Class As Districts Target 'Crashers'
by Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune, February 23, 2008.
"Boundary hopping -- attending school in one district while living in
another -- has been practiced for years, as parents strive to get their
children into better and safer environments. ... Many schools turn to
investigators for surveillance, staking out homes, bus stops and
train stations, videotaping comings and goings. Superintendents make
house calls, wanting to see beds, closets, toys and refrigerators."
Did School District Boundaries Lead to Mortgage Crunch?
by Mike Antonucci, Education Intelligence Agency Communiqué, April 28, 2008.
"That's the provocative thesis of Cornell University economist Robert
H. Frank. Writing in the April 27 Washington Post,
Frank suggests families fell victim to overborrowing in order
to get their kids into better public schools:
"Families fell victim to overborrowing in order
to get their kids into better public schools"
'It is no surprise that two-income families would choose to spend
much of their extra income on better education. And because the best
schools are in the most expensive neighborhoods, the imperative was
clear: To gain access to the best possible public school, you had to
purchase the most expensive house you could afford.
'But what works for any individual family does not work for society
as a whole. The problem is that a 'good' school is a relative
concept: It is one that is better than other schools in the same
area. When we all bid for houses in better school districts, we
merely bid up the prices of those houses ...
'Congress should not bail out speculators and fraudulent borrowers.
But neither should it be too quick to condemn families that borrowed
what the lending system offered rather than send their children to
Do You Live In-District? Schools Send In PI's to Verify Residency
by Crystal Yednak, Chicago Tribune, January 26, 2006.
You dared to try to choose a school for your child?
You might be getting a knock on the door from the Diamond Detective Agency
or National Investigations Inc.!
This article talks about how
local districts like Bellwood, Berkeley, Evanston-Skokie, Evergreen Park and Oak Park
try to crack down on parents seeking choice in an anti-choice state.
"If utility bills, state ID cards and surveillance do not settle the question of whether
a child lives in a school district, some Illinois schools go a step further -- sending
investigators into homes and the child's bedroom to prove residency."
Border Fence Proposed for Wrong Border,
Education Intelligence Agency, March 17, 2008.
"... So there's a lot of sympathy for a Matamoros student who crosses an
international border to attend a Brownsville public school. How about
a Milford, Connecticut, student who crosses district boundaries to
attend school in Norwalk? Not so much.
Norwalk spends $40,000 annually to keep those students out. 'It is a
process that is conducted with a good deal of discretion,' says the
superintendent. 'We don't want people to know we are conducting
Ohio District Offers Reward For Tips on Nonresident Students,
Associated Press, May 1, 2008.
"A northeast Ohio school system is offering $100 rewards for tips to identify students who live outside the district ...
Officials suspected 100 of its 3,500 students live outside the district. Since September, 45 such students have left ..."
by Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 24, 2007.
"Sometimes, it's a birthday party that gives them away.
A call comes in to a school office.
It's from a parent who has just attended a celebration ... beyond the boundaries of the county district
where the birthday boy or girl goes to school.
The call kicks off an investigation ...
[One district's] director of enrollment [says,] 'Sometimes they'll beg you to stay. It can be heartbreaking.' ...
[A superintendent in another district] said some of those incidents involved parents who
assumed that the precepts of the No Child Left Behind law entitled
them to take their children out of failing schools and enroll them
where they pleased. ...
In [yet another district], where some subdivisions are split by
district lines, real estate agents occasionally misinform homebuyers
about which district they are buying into, said [the superintendent]."
School Districts Cracking Down on Boundary Hopping,
Education News, January 11, 2007.
"School districts, education agencies, and even municipal governments
are increasing their attention on curtailing boundary hopping -- the
practice of falsifying residency status to attend a specific school ...
'With fewer than a quarter of states offering open enrollment
programs, the only choice for most families, at least as far as they
can see, is to cheat the system,' writes [American School Board Journal] senior editor Naomi
Crossing the Line:
School Districts are getting tough with parents who hop boundaries to enroll students
(cover story), by Naomi Dillon, American School Board Journal, January 2007.
"In [school districts] across the country, more and more families
these days are willing to go to any lengths to get their children
into the right schools, even if means crossing the line between right
and wrong. ... Boundary hopping -- the practice of falsifying
residency status to attend a particular school -- has been around for
years. In a handful of states, it has been alleviated by open
enrollment, choice programs, and, to a lesser extent, charter
schools. ... With fewer than a quarter of states offering open
enrollment programs, the only choice for most families, at least as
far as they can see, is to cheat the system. Most will use a friend
or relative's address, but some savvy parents produce fake leases,
obtain false identification cards, and even rent out short-term
apartments in the district."
Trapped in the Wrong Government School
by John Stossel, January 25, 2006.
"If you're a public-school student, your chances in life may be
largely dependent on where you live -- not just which country, not
just which state, but which little bureaucratic zone.
... So parents sometimes cheat to get their kids in. At least cheating is
what local officials call it. ...
Esterlita Tapang, whose grandson attends a Fremont Union high school
... broke the rules. The rules said her grandson, because of where he
lived, wasn't entitled to the quality education Fremont Union schools
provide. But which is worse: a system that traps students in bad
schools, or a grandmother who lies to save her grandson from being
denied a decent education? I asked her, 'Isn't it creepy that they
force you to go to the black market to get your kid a better
She thought it was. 'I was crying in front of this 14-year-old,' said
the grandmother. 'Why can't they just let parents get in the school
of their choice?'
... Why can't she choose her child's school? Most countries that beat
America on international tests give their students that choice. In
Belgium, the government spends less than American schools do on each
student, but the money is attached to the kids. So they can go
wherever they want -- to a state-run school, a Montessori school, or
even a religious school. ...
In public education, our land of the free is now a bunch of local
fiefs, where petty-bureaucrats-turned-lords-of-the-manor decide
whether you can get a decent education, and parents must go to them,
begging for their children's future. Meanwhile, in Belgium and much
of the rest of the world, students and their parents have the freedom
to choose their schools -- and the opportunity that comes with that
- From the
Education Intelligence Agency:
- August 27, 2001:
The Black Market in School Choice
- March 18, 2002:
Districts Hunt Down Out-of-District Students Like Common Criminals
- May 20, 2002:
Connecticut Schools Have Their Own Border Patrol
- September 16, 2002:
Baltimore County Makes Latest Attempt to Snuff Out Black Market in School Choice
- September 23, 2002:
School Choice Black Market Dragnet Nabs Teacher
- November 25, 2002:
The Return of the Black Market in School Choice
- December 2, 2002:
Florida Union Defends School Choice for Member
- August 11, 2003:
School Choice Black Market Revisited
- September 13, 2004:
Upholding the Law in Public Education
- February 7, 2005:
Black Market in School Choice: Teacher Edition
Mika Antonucci of the EIA concludes, "School choice -- the concept,
if not the voucher system by which it is best known -- is a fact of
American life. Rich people exercise it by moving to the suburbs. Poor
people exercise it by pretending to move to the suburbs. Fighting it
is like trying to prevent waves from reaching the shore."
Liberals and Conservatives
Politics and Parent Choice:
Both liberal and conservative perspectives on parent choice
are covered in numerous links and quotes in this section
of our page on politics and education.
By the way: Think parent choice is only a conservative or Republican issue?
Think again. Follow the link to hear what
prominent Democrats like Joseph Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein,
District of Columbia mayor Anthony A. Williams,
Andrew Young, Robert B. Reich, Hubert Humphrey,
and even John Kerry and Bill Clinton have said about parent choice.
Who Supports Parent Choice?
- A majority of adult Americans support parent choice of schools, as we learn
from a national survey conducted in 2005:
Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school,
public or private, to attend using public funds?
- The same survey,
commissioned by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, also looked
into how a "loaded question" can bias survey results in surveys about parent choice.
A separate panel was asked a question that was worded with a negative
built-in bias. This type of question has been used in some several surveys
conducted by groups opposed to parent choice:
Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a
private school to attend at public expense?
- Other findings (from a similar survey conducted in 2004) include:
- Most Americans (64 percent) support using tax dollars already
allocated to a school district for education to be used to help
parents pay for the school of their choice.
- About 60 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting
- Both Republicans (68 percent) and Democrats (54
percent) would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting
- Nearly 70 percent of African-American Democrats
surveyed would be more likely to vote for a candidate supporting
- The total number of African-Americans surveyed who
favor school choice reaches 80 percent.
- Even childless tax-payers
support school choice. The majority of parents (65 percent) and
non-parents (64 percent) favor using tax dollars to send a child to a
school of their choice.
Who Is Opposed to Choice?
The Ugly Politics of Parental Choice Opponents (PDF)
by George Mitchell,
Wisconsin Interest, 2005, Vol. 14 No. 2
The Education Borg: In Florida and Wisconsin, Teachers Unions Crush Educational Opportunities
OpinionJournal, Wall Street Journal Online, January 29, 2006.
"Teachers unions keep telling us they care deeply, profoundly, about poor children.
But what they do, as opposed to what they say, is behave like the Borg, those destructive
aliens in the Star Trek TV series who keep coming and coming until everyone is 'assimilated.'
We saw it in Florida this month when the state supreme court struck down a six-year-old voucher program
after a union-led lawsuit. And now we're witnessing it in Milwaukee, where the nation's largest school
choice program is under assault because Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle refuses to lift
the cap on the number of students who can participate. ...
What the Milwaukee and Florida examples show is that unions and their
allies are unwilling to let even successful voucher experiments
continue to exist. If they lose one court case, they will sue
again--and then again, as long as it takes. And they'll shop their
campaign cash around for years until they find a politician like Jim
Doyle willing to sell out Wisconsin's poorest kids in return for
their endorsement. Is there a more destructive force in American
- Recess from Reality: The Feminist Failure to Embrace School Choice
by Carrie L. Lukas, Independent Women's Forum, July 20, 2004,
full PDF report.
From the introduction:
"This paper provides an overview of various school choice initiatives
that have arisen across the country. It examines women's interest in
education reform, which extends beyond simply wanting the best
education for children to the system's effects on women's lives. This
paper considers and responds to the criticisms made by women's groups
to many of these school choice proposals. And it concludes that women
are better served by education policies that give parents control
over where their children go to school, and that women's groups
should join the chorus of school choice supporters."
NAACP's Fight Against Private School Vouchers
by Star Parker, May 15, 2006.
"Why would an organization that calls itself the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, whose motto is 'Making
Democracy Work Since 1909,' oppose individual choice and freedom and
dedicate itself to promoting public policy that guarantees the
perpetuation of black poverty? As incongruous as this might sound, it is in fact true. ...
The public school monopoly serves the black community so notoriously
poorly that many blacks themselves poll in favor of vouchers. ... So
what's going on here? You would think that NAACP leaders would be
rabid in pushing for change and opening new educational opportunities
available for black children. Yet, they doggedly defend a proven and
hopeless failed status quo. ... Maybe one day the NAACP will wake up
and recall that its mission is supposedly to expand not limit
opportunities for black Americans."
How Members of Congress Practice Private School Choice
(PDF) by Evan Feinberg, Heritage Foundation, September 4, 2007.
"In 2007, [a] survey ... found that 37 percent of Representatives and
45 percent of Senators in the 110th Congress sent their children to
private schools -- almost four times the rate of the general
population. Based on the survey results, if all of the Members who
exercised school choice for their own children had supported school
choice in policy, every major legislative effort in recent years to
give parents school choice would have passed."
Opportunity For Me, Not For Thee:
Congressional Kids And Fairness In Public Policy
by Krista Kafer, September 24, 2003.
"...When it comes to their own children, many members of
Congress support parent choice. In a recent survey, the Heritage
Foundation asked every representative and senator whether he has ever
sent a child to a private school. Of those responding, 41 percent of
representatives and 46 percent of senators have done so. In the
general population, only about 10 percent of students are enrolled in
private schools. ...
Sadly, many of the same policymakers who exercise choice in their own
children's education have consistently voted to block legislation
that would have given poor families the same range of options. In
fact, had all members of Congress voted in a way that was consistent
with their own private practice, every piece of voucher legislation
voted on in the past three years would have passed."
Money, Schools and Choice
Saving Money and Improving Education:
How School Choice Can Help States Reduce Education Costs
by David Salisbury, Cato Institute, October 4, 2005.
"Results from existing programs in Arizona, Milwaukee, Cleveland,
Florida, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Vermont indicate that school choice
makes fiscal sense. In addition, analyses of proposed school choice
programs in Utah, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Baltimore, and
Virginia conclude that those programs would save money and give an
idea of the savings that could result from similar programs in other
Thus far, much of the debate over school choice has focused on the
educational benefits it could bring. It can bring significant fiscal
benefits as well."
How School Choice Programs Can Save Money
by Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation, April 19, 2005. Excerpts:
"School choice programs, like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship
Program, are a way to increase academic performance, according to
several evaluations to date. When public schools don't make the
grade, school choice programs are good social policy.
What is often overlooked, however, is that choice programs are good
fiscal policy, as well. Consider the example of Washington, D.C.,
again. The maximum opportunity scholarship -- $7,500 -- is less than 60
percent of what Washington's public schools spend on a student."
The Economics of School Choice
by Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast, Chicago Sun-Times, December 20, 2003
Excerpts: "We suspect there is another factor stalling the school choice movement.
It is the hesitancy by school choice advocates to defend the economics of school choice.
In 1962, University of Chicago economics professor Milton Friedman ... set out a profound challenge
to the status quo of government funding and operation of schools,
calling it 'an indiscriminate extension of governmental responsibility.'
Friedman's endorsement of vouchers lifted the idea from obscurity to the center of
the debate over how to improve schools, but writers after Friedman chose to
focus on the fairness and social justice aspects of school choice,
rather than the economic justifications he presented."
- Education by the Numbers: The Fiscal Effect of School Choice Programs, 1990-2006,
by Susan L. Aud, Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, April 2007.
Despite claims that school choice drains money from public schools,
this study finds that private schooling is more efficient, producing savings for both public schools and state budgets.
- School choice programs saved a total of about $444 million from
1990 to 2006, including a total of $22 million saved in state budgets
and $422 million saved in local public school districts.
- Every existing school choice program is at least Ô¨Åscally
neutral and most produce a substantial savings; every school except 3
(1 in Utah, 2 in Maine) has produced at least $1 million in savings.
- In nearly every school choice program, the dollar value of the
voucher or scholarship is less than or equal to the state's formula
spending per student, meaning states are spending the same amount or
less on students in school choice programs.
- In addition, when a student uses school choice, the local public
school district no longer needs to pay the instructional costs
associated with that student, but it does not lose all of its
per-student revenue, because some revenue does not vary with
- Instructional spending per student has consistently gone up in
all affected public school districts and states; school choice has
not prevented those states and districts from spending more on the
students who remain in public schools.
by Lewis Andrews, American Enterprise, October/November 2003.
"In attempts to cope with these [state] budget problems, one
important contributing factor has been ignored: the exploding costs
of public education. A comparison of the costs of public schooling
versus private schooling suggests how much our current state
schooling may needlessly inflate the cost of local government. ...
Public education's huge role in America's fiscal woes would be easier
to accept if there were positive results to show for the spending.
But much of the extra funds sloshing through public schools is simply
wasted. Only half the people on the District of Columbia public
school payroll are teachers. [Editor's note: the is true in Illinois as well!] ...
Though government spending on public
education is now higher in the U.S. than in any other developed
country, American middle and high school students ranked last in
mathematics and science in the most recent International Assessment
of Education Progress.
Spending more is not helping our children. The only cure for
America's education stall, many reformers now say, is to give parents
more control over the public funds allocated for the education of
their children. ...
One point that has been missed up to now, however, is that school
choice is more than just an educational innovation. It also has the
potential to make education spending much more efficient, and thus to
help reduce state and local budget pressures. Competition lowers the
number of dollars needed to achieve good academic results."
Local Property Tax-Based Funding of Public Schools
by Caroline M. Hoxby, Ph.D., Heartland Policy Study No. 82 -- May 19, 1997.
The evidence is clear and convincing: Students and taxpayers alike
are better off under locally based systems of school funding and school control.
Do-It-Yourself Calculator: Municipal Grants for Non-Public Schooling:
School districts generally look at the supply side of the equation
when deciding how to meet future enrollment projections. This leads
to rounds of tax hikes and school construction. Few school districts
ever bother to look at the demand side of the equation: "What if we try
to reduce the number of students seeking admission, by offering them vouchers
to any school of their choice, publicv or private?" This approach can often
be far less expensive for the district, while increasing parent satisfaction.
This calculator from the Yankee Institutecan demonstrate the financial
advantage to your town of offering a grant to some students to attend
- The Heartland Report on School Finance Reform for Illinois
Part 1 and
Part 2 (PDF documents)
by Joseph L. Bast, Herbert J. Walberg, and Robert J. Genetski
Heartland Policy Studies #72 and #73 -- May 1996
In February 1996, a Commission on Education Funding called by then-Governor
Jim Edgar reported its findings and called for increasing state spending on
schools, reducing spending variation among school districts, and relieving
property tax burdens by increasing the state income tax.
Part 1 (PDF) replies to the Commission's findings, tracking the organization of its
Part 2 (PDF) advances an alternative reform plan to put Illinois on course to
a world-class school system.
Illinois Tuition Tax Credits
Illinois provides a very small amount (up to $500) in tax credits for private
tuition costs. But it has many restrictions, and a family can only claim
the maximum of $500 even if paying tuition for more than one child.
Such a small amount has little impact on either personal decision-making,
or stimulation of development of new educational choices.
(To learn more about how to claim this credit, and to compute how much you may
be entitled to,
this description [written by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago] may be helpful.)
In March 2004, the Friedman Foundation released a report,
Ranking Vouchers (PDF),
written by Robert C. Enlow,
that analyzed and compared 13 different programs across the country that provide
vouchers, tax credits, or tax deductions intended to assist families looking
for a choice in schools. Illinois ranked 9th in this field of 13. Here is
what the report said about Illinois:
Illinois and Minnesota provide personal income
tax credits or deductions for school tuition
expenses. This is the equivalent of a voucher
program implemented through the tax code;
while neither program provides enough money to
fully cover tuition at even a cheap private
school, both make private schooling marginally
more affordable. Both programs earn a D for
Academic/Income Restrictions because families
must earn enough to pay state income tax in
order to benefit at all from the programs, and
must earn enough to pay a significant amount of
state income tax to benefit fully. They earn a B
for Program Scope Restrictions because they do
not repay tuition payments dollar for dollar:
families must spend more than the amount they
get back. Both programs provide a very small
total amount of money to each family. Illinois
pays a maximum of $500, while Minnesota
provides a tax deduction for $1,625 of taxable
income in grades K-6 and for $2,500 in grades 7-
12, so both get an F for Purchasing Power.
Neither program imposes any School Restrictions.
The Illinois and Minnesota programs both
get Cs, with grade point averages of 2.00.
Here is the complete list of the criteria used in
this Friedman report, and how they evaluated Illinois'
tuition tax credit program:
|Illinois Tuition Tax Credit|
Ratings from Friedman Foundation
|Student Eligibility||Academic/Income Restrictions||1||D|
|Program Scope Restrictions||3||B|
|Student Eligibility Overall||2||C|
|School Eligibility||General School Restrictions||4||A|
|Admission Policy Restrictions||4||A|
|School Eligibility Overall||4||A|
|Ranking||9th of 13 states|
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)
Time to Consider Education Savings Accounts
by Joseph L. Bast, School Reform News, September 1, 2005. Excerpts:
"As vouchers and tax credits move from theory to practice in cities and states across the country,
greater attention is being focused on matters of program design. One design feature that could boost
the effectiveness of school choice and possibly minimize the threat of increased regulation of
participating schools is Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs. ...
The ESA replaces the idea that a voucher or refundable tax credit would be a certificate or scholarship
worth a specified amount when redeemed for tuition by a participating school.
Instead, each student would have a savings account from which his or her parents or guardians
could pay for educational services provided by a variety of service providers.
ESAs recognize trends in education leading away from the conventional school as the sole place
for K-12 learning by freeing parents to choose multiple service providers in addition to, or instead of,
paying tuition to a single school. The result could be an explosion of creativity as tutors,
curriculum specialists, and distance learning providers compete to serve a rapidly expanding market."
Public School Tuition?
Why Aren't Public Schools More Like Universities?
by Richard K. Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics, Ohio
University, September 2, 2005. Excerpts:
"There is widespread agreement that America has the best universities
in the world. Foreign students enroll by the hundreds of thousands,
and American college professors dominate the Nobel Prize lists.
But virtually no one says we have the best K-12 education in the
world. To the contrary, many lament the poor showing of American
students on international tests. What makes American universities so
much better than our primary and secondary schools?
While many factors are at work, much of the explanation can be
summarized in two words: 'privatization' and 'markets.' ...
universities are far more subject to the discipline of the market,
meaning they face financial consequences for displeasing students or parents. ...
Can K-12 reformers learn something from the universities? Yes, with caveats.
As costs for public schools rise, cash-strapped governments should consider
freezing subsidies to the public schools and allow them to charge tuition.
To avert arguments that we are denying access to the poor,
'progressive vouchers' like those once advocated by [Clinton administration
cabinet member] Robert Reich might be used."
Choice Within Public Schools
The Agony of American Education: How per-student funding can revolutionize public schools
by Lisa Snell, Reason, April 2006.
Snell's premise is that some choice is at least better than no choice as she
describes school districts in San Francisco and Edmonton that allow parents
to enroll their kids in any of their city's [public] schools. She writes,
"In these districts, the money follows the children, parents have
the right to choose their children's public schools and leave
underperforming schools, and school principals and communities have
the right to spend their school budgets in ways that make their
schools more desirable to parents. As a result, the number of schools
parents view as 'acceptable' has increased greatly in the last
This is certainly an accomplishment, although Snell also notes,
"Public school choice is not a panacea. ...
unlike an actual market system in education, public schools are
still strapped with myriad local, state, and federal regulations. ...
Public school choice is at best a weak substitute for true school choice ...
A better alternative would be to move to a direct financing mechanism
through vouchers, tax credits, or charter schools -- an arrangement under
which per-pupil funding immediately empowers parents and leads to the
most decentralized schools of all, with 100 percent local budget control."
The article concludes, "Yet the better alternative is not always the politically feasible
alternative. School decentralization offers a compelling model for
restructuring school financing, giving principals and parents true
control over their schools, and offering real [public] school choice to all
students within the constraints of a public school system. It also
gets parents used to the idea that schools need not be linked to real
estate. And it demonstrates that even within a limited pseudo-market,
when families become consumers of education services with the right
of exit, schools quickly improve to attract them."
We're sure there is much more to the story: For example, the article has
little mention of finessing union contracts to go along with all
this, and the dollar values it talks about for kids are ridiculously
low. Still, it's a great example of making progress by moving from A to B
to C to D, rather than stubbornly sticking to A while holding out for
- Sidebar to the above article:
Meet Arlene Ackerman, the woman who shook up San Francisco's schools
interviewed by Lisa Snell, Reason, April 2006.
Organizations - Parent Choice
For those looking for more information about choice,
here is a list of organizations specifically focused on that issue.
Note: this list is presented for your convenience in seeking additional
information and resources and in researching additional perspectives and
points of view. While we generally find most of the topics at these sites
to be interesting and helpful, we do not necessarily endorse everything you
may find there.
Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for School Choice
was founded upon the ideals and theories of Nobel Laureate
economist Milton Friedman and economist Rose D. Friedman.
The Friedman Foundation strives to educate parents, public
policy makers and organizations about the desperate need for a
shift of power to the disenfranchised parents of America who
have limited choices and voices in the education of their children.
Here are some documents and links for items of special interest on their website:
Heartland Institute: The Heartland Institute is Illinois' own powerhouse think tank behind
education reform. The link is to their "education reform issue suite,"
including info and links on:
- Illinois School Choice Initiative
- Coverage of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court favoring parent choice
- The Heartland Plan for Illinois
- Talking Points on School Choice
- Principles for Reform
- Do-It-Yourself School Savings Calculator
- Ten Principles of School Choice
School Reform News: The Heartland Institute's excellent national monthly outreach
publication for school reformers and elected legislators.
Alliance for School Choice -- operates both a state and a national agenda for advancing K-12
education options such as charter schools, school vouchers and tuition tax credits.
Their website provides some handy background materials explaining
the various directions of parent choice, and the status of choice initiatives around the country.
Institute for Justice:
The IJ, a public interest law firm, was one of the major players in the 2004 Supreme Court decision
that vouchers are indeed legal under the U.S. Constitutional.
The IJ has a section of its website devoted to
School Choice Media Kit from the Institute for Justice
Black Alliance for Educational Options: BAEO
is a rapidly growing national group that sees school choice
as a new civil rights issue. Numerous local chapters are being formed.
Their mission statements says,
"We exist to...
Educate and inform the general public about parent choice initiatives on the local and national level,
educate Black families about the numerous educational options available,
create, promote and support efforts to empower Black parents to exercise choice in determining how their children are educated,
and educate and inform the general public about efforts to reduce or limit educational options available to parents."
Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (Hispanic CREO):
This organization was founded in the summer of 2001 when a group of ten Latinos
from differing professional, political, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds met
for the purpose of discussing the large educational achievement gap of Latino children.
Hispanic CREO's stated mission is
"to improve educational outcomes for Hispanic children by empowering
families through parent choice in education."
Parents in Charge Foundation says its purpose is "to educate on behalf of school choice reform at the grassroots level."
Freedom Works: School Choice
Education Policy Institute -- primarily concerned
with issues on unions and parent choice
Coalition for Parental Choice in Education: involved
in a variety of projects to allow parents to have choice in
their children's education. CPCE is primarily focused
on efforts in Massachusetts.
In Canada, get in touch with the fine folks at the
Organization for Quality Education.
School Choice Wisconsin: The principal organization behind the successful fight for
school choice in Wisconsin offers plenty of information for advocates nationally.
Extensive coverage on the U.S. Supreme Court procedings
on the Cleveland voucher program
LEAD Action: A Wisconsin-based group that works nationally in favor
of universal tuition tax credits (UTTC) to fund parent choice in education.
Teachers for Choice
"Reform-Minded Teachers" by David W. Kirkpatrick
School Choices: an interesting collection of articles and resources on parent choice,
including historical and international perspectives.
School Choice Initiatives of the National Catholic Educational Association
Citizens for Educational Freedom (CEF)
International Society for Individual Liberty:
Schools and Choice
Alliance for the Separation of School and State
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, articles on choice
Organizations - Education Reform
"Right now, the quality of your children's education depends on your address."
-- Tom Zafiratos, superintendent of Pennoyer District 79 in Norridge, a suburb of Chicago
(Norridge and Harwood Heights News, February 3, 2005)
"Broadly speaking, there are only two ways to create accountability for
student progress in large systems: standards, or competition.
The standards movement is getting its chance now. Depending on how well
it delivers, the voucher movement, or at least more radical forms
of public school choice, may not be far behind."
-- Matthew Miller, writing in The Washington Monthly, June 2001
"And so reality intrudes on the best intentions of the No Child Left
Behind Act. 'Choice' is limited, in part because school bureaucracies
have been slow to embrace it, and in part because legislatures and
Congress have been reluctant to embrace such measures as school
vouchers, designed to give low-income children broader access to
private school alternatives."
-- Editorial, Chicago Tribune, August 8, 2003
"The only reason that public schools enjoy as much
support as they still do is that most parents are still harboring the
illusion that the schools are still somehow similar to the schools of their
-- Dave Ziffer
"The major roadblock to the advance of school choice in the
suburbs is not how to pursue a solution, but for families
first to recognize there is a problem and that they have little
choice or control over what their children are taught in public schools."
-- George A. Clowes, School Reform News, October 2001
"Offering choice only within the public schools is akin
to offering Russians the right to shop at different state stores."
-- John Leo
"The cities have been murdered by their schools. If the schools were good,
we could handle the other problems."
-- Jerrold R. Zacharias, professor, MIT, September 1, 1969
"I do believe you will find a strong movement for charter schools and
school choice whenever a school district is not responsive to
what parents want."
-- Cheri Pierson Yecke, former Minnesota state Commissioner of Education
"There is nothing in the concept of democracy to require that schools be subject
to direct control by school boards, central offices, departments of education,
and other arms of government. ... There are many paths of democracy and public education."
-- John E. Chubb and Terry M. Moe, Politics, Markets and America's Schools
"The United States is the outlier -- it's the place that is strange. All of the
Western European countries and Canada have school choice. They don't always call
it vouchers but they have it. If you lived in Winnipeg you could go to any
private, public or parochial school and the province pays. They have choice. They
have choice in Sweden -- socialist Sweden has choice: vouchers for going to
religious schools, private schools, public schools. Only the United States has
this system where all the money just goes to the government-owned schools. It's
unusual. It's weird. It's not sustainable in the long run. Eventually choice will
-- John O. Norquist, former Democratic mayor of Milwaukee
"Expanded parental choice is a necessary condition for
authentic school reform."
-- Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, on "O'Reilly Factor",
Fox News, June 4, 2001
"The idea of a public school monopoly is dead. It needs to be
relegated to the Smithsonian."
-- Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education
"We must love our children's hopes and dreams and prayers more
than we love the institutional heritage of the school system."
-- Willard Daggett
"How did we ever get into a situation of telling parents where they have to send their kids to school?"
-- Lamar Alexander, US Secretary of Education, 1991-1993
"In order to improve K through 12 education, I believe it is essential for
parents to have options. They should have more than a Hobson's choice when
it comes to educating their children -- they should have real choice.
They should be able to consider a magnet program in a neighborhood school, or an
innovative charter school, or an improving public school or the chance to
apply for a scholarship to help pay the tuition at a private school.
That's the kind of choice that will inspire competition and foster innovation."
-- Anthony A. Williams, Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C., July 1, 2003
"President Bush talks about school choice and accountability,
which is good, but 'No Child Left Behind' has allowed very few parents
to choose different schools for their children.
What it has allowed is an unprecedented expansion of federal authority
-- Joseph Bast, Heartland Institute, "Heartlander," November 2000
"Based on the substantial amount of money pumped into the schools
and the resultant test scores, I do not believe that money alone
is going to solve the problem. This is why I believe the
District [of Columbia] should be allowed to try [school vouchers]."
-- U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat-Calif), July 22, 2003
"If I was the parent of a child who went to an inner-city school
that was failing ... I might be for vouchers, too."
-- Vice President Al Gore, August 9, 2000, in a moment of candor,
speaking to a campaign rally
in a school gym in Tennessee.
"Money is not the only answer to the crisis in education ...
We also have to shake up the system. The current system is not
functioning as well as it should. I'm intrigued by the ideas of
vouchers and choice as a way to create competition in the educational
marketplace. I bet such competition would be popular, and would
excite a lot of families, a lot of parents, a lot of students."
-- Sen. Joseph Lieberman (1990)
"If you ask me
personally, I'm still for a test of vouchers. ... But I understand how
this works when you are vice president."
-- Sen. Joseph Lieberman, interviewed on CNN on August 13, 2000
"The standoff between vouchers and money is predictable. It is also
regrettable, because it prevents consideration of a most promising way to
improve school performance -- giving kids 'progressive' vouchers that are inversely
related to the size of their family's income ... Why not simply 'voucherize' all
education funding and let students and their parents select where they can get
the best education?"
-- Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2000
"Most American parents give their kids' schools an A or B grade,
but that's only because, without market competition, they don't know
what they might have had."
-- John Stossel
"The state has intruded into civil society in a way that the Founders
would never have envisaged. It does not merely fund the majority
of schools: it controls them."
-- Roger Scruton, American Spectator, December 2006
"If public money that is reasonably attributable to the State is used to pay for
a religious education, it violates the Constitution ...
The only way in which it's not attributable to the State is if it doesn't go
there by virtue of a State action or a State decision, but the circuit is
broken ... and the circuit is broken because in between, standing
between the State and standing between the schools, is an independent party with
decisionmaking to divert it away."
-- Robert H. Chanin, teacher union attorney, arguing against
vouchers before the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2002, inadvertently
providing a clear argument for why school choice by parents
does not violate the Constitution.
"If the only motive was to help people who could not afford education, advocates
of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies."
-- Milton Friedman, economist, 1976 Nobel Laureate
"Assumption of responsibility by government for educating all children
does not require that schooling be delivered in government-run
institutions -- just as government food stamps need not be spent in
government grocery stores. ...
School vouchers can push elementary and secondary education out of
the 19th century and into the 21st by introducing market competition
on a broad scale, just as competition has made progress possible in every
other area of economic and civic life."
-- Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winner, New York Times, July 2, 2002
"Vouchers are not an end in themselves;
they are a means to make a transition
from a government to a market system."
-- Milton Friedman
"I am a public school teacher. I made what was a very difficult decision
last year -- to send my child to a private school. ... The public school
where I work is full of hard working, dedicated teachers, who are stretched
to their limits. They are aware of many children whose needs they cannot meet.
We have tried many extra groups, team teaching, etc., to attempt to meet those
needs in a better way. It is not nearly enough. We need massive change in the
system. I don't see this happening soon. I welcome vouchers. I deserve to have
more choices for my child. The children and families I work with deserve
-- Ellen Davis of Elk River, Minnesota, in a letter to the editor
of the Minnesota Educator, August 22, 2002
"What is the fundamental difference between our higher educational system and
our K-12 system? The real, fundamental difference is that Northwestern University
doesn't own any students. The University of Chicago doesn't own any students. The
University of Illinois doesn't own any students. They have to earn them. They
have to compete."
-- Illinois State Senator Steve Rauschenberger,
interviewed by Jeff Berkowitz
"If I had a business that half the product we turned out was defective
or you couldn't put into the marketplace, I would shut that business down."
-- Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, , March 26, 2008, referring to high school dropout rates of 50% or higher
<-- http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080327/tc_nm/att_workforce_dc -->
"We have found, in our country, that when people have the right to make decisions as close to
home as possible, they usually make the right decisions."
-- Ronald Reagan
"If you spend your own money on yourself, you care how much
you spend and how well you spend it.
If you spend your own money on someone else, you care how
much you spend, but you don't care how well it is spent.
If you spend someone else's money on yourself, you don't
care how much you spend, but you do care how well it is
And finally, if you spend someone else's money on someone
else, you don't care how much you spend, and you don't care
how well it is spent. That is government."
-- Milton Friedman
"The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose,
excludes any general power of the state to standardize children by
forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.
The child is not the mere creature of the state:
those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right,
coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him
for additional obligations."
-- James C. McReynolds, writing for the majority
in Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, U.S. Supreme Court, 1925.
The Court ruled unconstitutional an Oregon law that attempted to make attendence at
public school compulsory.
"School choice isn't true choice when the State removes an entire class of options,
as Maine did when it barred religious schools from participating in its tuitioning program ...
Maine's tuitioning program should not favor religion, but to discriminate against
religion as it now does is simply unfair and unconstitutional.
The State should allow parents to select religious schools for their children
among a range of other private and public options."
-- Richard Komer, Senior Litigation Attorney, Institute for Justice
"The Fourteenth Amendment protects the citizen against the State itself
and all of its creatures -- Boards of Education not excepted. ...
Probably no deeper division of our people could proceed from any provocation
than from finding it necessary to choose what doctrine and whose program
public educational officials shall compel youth to unite in embracing."
-- Robert H. Jackson, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1943
"Americans, with our supposed love of freedom and democracy,
never question the right of the state to proselytize children.
That to me is one of the great affronts to human liberty."
-- Gore Vidal, author
"If the First Amendment is applied to the reality of schooling as it has
developed in this century, the conclusion must be that individual liberty,
the healthy functioning of the political system, and the preservation of a
truly public and governable public-school system require a separation of
school and state."
-- Stephen Arons, Compelling Belief, 1983, pp 212-213
"People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of
educational experience they want their children to have. "
-- John Holt
"Private schools are held to account in the most effective way possible -- they're
accountable to their customers who are free to take their business elsewhere if
they're not satisfied."
-- Mike Rosen, Rocky Mountain News
"There was a day, within our lifetimes, when public officials stood
in school doorways in an attempt to keep some students from entering.
Now we have the sad spectacle of others symbolically standing in
school doorways attempting to keep any students from getting out."
-- David W. Kirkpatrick
"To have a constitutional right dependent upon an ability to pay is no right at all."
-- David W. Kirkpatrick
"If the government would make up its mind to require for
every child a good education, it might
save itself the trouble of providing one."
-- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
"The objections which are urged with reason against State education, do not apply
to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking upon itself to
direct that education, which is a totally different thing."
-- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
"An education established and controlled by the State,
should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many
competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of
example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a
certain standard of excellence."
-- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
"We are opposed to state interference with parental rights and rights of
conscience in the education of children as an infringement of the fundamental
Democratic doctrine that the largest individual liberty consistent with the
rights of others insures the highest type of American citizenship and the best
-- National Platform of the Democratic Party, 1892
"State ownership means trusting the politicians."
-- G. K. Chesterton, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 19, 1921
"Education is the established church of the United States.
It is one of the religions that Americans believe in.
It has its own orthodoxy, its pontiffs and its noble buildings."
-- Sir Michael Sadler, New York Times, Sept. 1, 1956
"Practically all the time in traditional Western classrooms ... is spent on producing
-- Peter F. Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society, p. 202, 1993
"As long as we don't have a choice, nothing is going to change."
-- television ad for a new local telephone company in Chicago
"It is often easier for our children to obtain a gun than it is to find a good school."
-- Joycelyn Elders
"Maybe that's because guns are sold at a profit, while schools are provided by the government."
-- David Boaz
"Riddle of the year : How is a public school like the U.S. Post Office?
Answer : It's inefficient, it costs more each year than the last,
it is a perpetual subject of complaint about which nothing is ever done.
It is, in short, a typical government monopoly."
-- David Friedman
"We must trust parents -- not government -- to make the education decisions
that affect their kids. It's simply a matter of social and economic justice."
-- Gov. Thomas Ridge (Pennsylvania), address to Union League of Philadelphia, April 13, 2000
"It is ironic that teacher unions oppose voucher plans -- even when
limited only to public schools. For years, the unions have demanded
recognition of teaching as a full profession... The irony: Only under
a voucher plan would teachers be as 'professional' as are doctors or
lawyers. Professionals, except teachers, already work in an open
-- Philip and Susan Jones
"If former President Clinton had proposed legislation with testing,
greater federal funding and no private school vouchers, conservatives
would have killed it. Not only would we have killed it, but we would
have held a press conference celebrating its defeat."
-- an unnamed congressman, quoted in a newspaper article following
George W. Bush's wimp-out on school vouchers, May 2001
"If this [voucher] provision is eliminated, we have lost most of the
president's vision for education reform because the only thing this
bill will do is empower the bureaucrats in Washington."
-- Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., following
George W. Bush's wimp-out on school vouchers, May 2001
"...parental choice and involvement are important to excellence in education...
... parents have a fundamental right to direct the education and
upbringing of their children..."
-- from H.R. 578, passed unanimously by the House of Representatives
"A child will be better brought up by a wise father however limited,
than by the cleverest teacher in the world."
-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
quoted by Diane Ravitch in her book
Left Back, with
the comment that "It was ironic that Rousseau became a hero to progressives ...
who were building state systems of public education, because he was hostile
to social institutions ... he was a champion of home schooling, not public
"The only real measure of a teacher's competence, over time,
is whether parents want the services of that teacher."
"We've all bought into the crazy idea that for some
mysterious reason -- which no one seems able to articulate -- education
should not operate according to the same principles that govern every other
sector of our society. ... But we do have a model for competition and choice.
It's called all the rest of America. In fact, we even have a competitive
model within education, and it's called the university system."
-- Ted Forstmann, Chairman and CEO of the Children's Scholarship Fund
"It is irrelevant whether the parents of a voucher student are
satisfied or dissatisfied with the education that their children receive."
-- Bob Chanin, general counsel for the National Education Association, quoted in
Heartland News. August 2002
"Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be
given to their children."
-- United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
"The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect
for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to
ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity
with their own convictions."
-- United Nations, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
"The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect
for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to
choose for their children schools, other than those established by
the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational
standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure
the religious and moral education of their children in conformity
with their own convictions."
-- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
guarantees, Article 13 Paragraph 3, 1966.
"I used to think that technology could help education. I've probably
spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than
anybody else on the planet. But I've come to the inevitable conclusion
that the problem cannot be fixed with technology ...
No amount of technology will make a dent. ...
It's a political problem ... The problems are unions. ...
You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and
the dropping of SAT scores, and they're inversely proportional. The
problems are the unions in the schools ... I'm one of these people
who believes the best thing we could ever do is go to the full voucher system."
-- Steve Jobs, co-founder, Apple Computer, Wired magazine, February 1996
"I believe that if Martin Luther King and A. D. King were here they
would say 'Do what's best for the children.' It [the idea for school
vouchers] may sound radical, but so were they."
"Is it moral to tax families, compel their children's attendance
at schools, and then give no choice between teaching methods,
religious or secular education and other matters?"
-- Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1997
"It's time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy,
a bureaucratic system in which everybody's role is spelled out in advance,
and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity.
It's no surprise that our school system doesn't improve:
It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy."
-- Albert Shanker, late president, American Federation of Teachers,
Wall Street Journal, "Reding, Wrighting & Erithmatic,"
October 2, 1989.
"I find it intriguing that public school teachers who have never put
their kids in the schools that they teach in will insist that poor
parents keep their children in these very schools. Why? Because if
those children leave, it could affect their employment.
But if the school is not good enough for their children,
why is it good enough for anybody's children?"
-- Dr. Howard Fuller, former Superintendent of Schools in Milwaukee,
Distinguished Professor of Education, Marquette University
Cambridge School Choice Conference")
"If parents of students have the right to choose so many other
basics in their lives -- such as where they live,
where they go to church, where they work -- then they also ought
have the right to choose where their children go to school."
-- Kurt Schmoke, Democratic mayor of Baltimore,
quoted by Associated Press, March 8, 1996
"It is amazing how many people think that the government's role
is to give them what they want by overriding what other people want."
-- Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.
"The one area that I would emphasize ... is choice and vouchers. ...
The only thing that I believe is going to change dramatically public education
in this country is to go to a choice system and break up the monopoly."
-- Rudolph Giuliani, June 13, 2006
"It is out of character for a country that prides itself on intellectual
freedom to put the education of its young in the hands of the state."
-- David Kelley, "Learning the Hard Way," p. 17, Barron's, February 17, 1986
"Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that,
if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another.
But if we face a monopolist we are at his mercy."
-- Friedrich A. Hayek
"Unfortunately, when most people call for solutions, a different
way of thinking is usually the last thing they have in mind.
What they want instead is something that will not challenge their
assumptions, shock their sensibilities, or violate the conventional wisdom."
-- William Ophuls, Requiem for Modern Politics, Westview Press, 1997
"[W]e have a serious national crisis on our hands ... we should not
be worrying whther particular reform propositions are too radical.
We should be worrying whether they are radical enough."
-- Clint Bolick, director, Alliance for School Choice, in his book,
Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Civil Liberty.
"Our K-12 system of public schools ... represents perhaps the largest
socialized delivery system outside of Communist China.
And the results are all too predictable."
-- Clint Bolick, director, Alliance for School Choice, in his book,
Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Civil Liberty.
"The schools operate as a monopoly, sheltered from the market
consequences of failure."
-- Clint Bolick, director, Alliance for School Choice, in his book,
Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Civil Liberty.
"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people
themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control
with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation
of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
I have sworn on the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form
of tyranny over the mind of man."
-- Thomas Jefferson
There are many other great quotes about choice and vouchers
on this page
at the SchoolReformers website.
"If I didn't think a charter school was necessary, these letters have
convinced me the high school was not doing an adequate job in teaching
English language arts."
-- Roberta Schaefer, member, Massachusetts State Board of Education, referring to
a student letter-writing campaign opposing a proposed charter school in Marlboro.
Many of the letters contained spelling and punctuation errors.
The board approved the charter. (Boston Herald, February 25, 2004)
"The reason so many charter schools sprouted in Arizona so
quickly is that, once again, we bypassed the school districts.
The early charter movement floundered a decade ago because most
states forced schools to obtain charters from local school boards.
No surprise that charters weren't springing up fast: this
would be like Burger King asking for permission to sell
Whoppers in the local McDonald's. There's just not going
to be any enthusiasm to help out the competition."
-- Lisa Graham Keegan, former Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Arizona
"The traditional public school system must change how it
does business to compete with charter schools."
-- a remarkable statement on the power of competition,
from Paul Karlowicz, president of the NEA-affiliated
Tucson Education Association
"Charter schools are just public schools on a slightly longer leash. A dog on a long leash is still a dog on a leash."
-- Marshall Fritz
"Competition from charter schools is the best way to motivate the ossified
bureaucracies governing too many public schools. This grass-roots revolution
seeks to reconnect public education with our most basic values: ingenuity,
responsibility, and accountability."
-- Sen. Joseph Lieberman