Monday, May 12, 2008

Tracing the Roots of School Choice

This month, Charity Navigator published a new hot topic which I wrote, School Choice: A Market Approach to Education Reform. In it, I summarize the issues and list highly rated charities working to advance choice in education.

School choice is certainly not a new issue in education reform. Supporters of school choice celebrated the 25th anniversary of the report A Nation at Risk, a landmark in the cause of school reform. The history of school choice as a reform movement, however, dates back much further. Here are some other influential events along the way.


1776 – Adam Smith suggests that educational choice and private funding of teachers would promote competition and lead to greater success. This was the root of the voucher idea

1970 – The Office of Economic Opportunity launches the first modern voucher program in Alum Rock, CA. It runs for five years

1971 – New York City’s Harlem school districts pioneer an intra-district controlled choice program, allowing students to choose from any school in the district

1980 – Early Charter Schools appear in Philadelphia and Minnesota

1983 – Mueller v. Allen upholds a tuition tax credit for Minnesota parents sending their children to private schools

A Nation at Risk is published, reporting findings of poor academic performance

1988 – Minnesota’s statewide choice system is the first to extend open enrollment between districts

1990 – Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is the first voucher legislation allowing students to attend private schools using tax money

1991 – Minnesota passes the first Charter School Law

1999 – Florida enacts the nation’s first statewide voucher program (struck down in 2006)

2003 – Percentage of students (grades 1-12) attending a school other than their local public school reaches 15%

2005 – 40 states and the District of Columbia now allow charter schools, and there are 3,294 such schools operating nation-wide

2006 – Milwaukee’s voucher program, for the first time, pays more than $100 million in vouchers

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