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The Realities of School Choice in Public Education

The Realities of School Choice in Public Education

With the increasing demand for better schools, states and communities are providing more options to families. By doing so, they are not only improving educational opportunities for children, but also having a dramatic impact on how schools operate. School choice options are: publicly funded school choice program, charter schools, magnet school and private scholarship programs. Armed with the evidence of the success that these programs can generate, particularly for disadvantaged children, state lawmakers are addressing education reform with new vigor.

Why school choice? Two reasons: excellence and accountability. Parents want academic excellence for their children. They also want to know that there is someone in their child’s school who is accountable for achieving those high academic standards. Under a school choice plan, a parent would have options. There would be consequences for a school’s poor performance. Parents could pull their children out of poorly performing schools and enroll them someplace else. If exercising this option leads to a mass exodus from certain underachieving schools, schools will learn this painful lesson: schools will either improve, or close due to declining enrollments.

The term “school choice” covers a multitude of student assignment places that vary significantly in their underlying assumptions and operational procedures. Although there is a great variety of school choice plans, a few major types can be identified. They are Intradistrict, Interdistrict, Magnet Schools, Postsecondary options, Second-Chance Schools, Charter Schools, Voucher Plans and Tuition tax credits.

Intradistrict choice is a plan which allows students to choose schools within one public school district. Depending on the specific plan, the range of choice may include a few to all schools in a district.

Interdistrict choice is a plan which permits students to cross district lines to attend school. Tuition funds from the state follow the student and transportation costs are usually provided. Unlimited Interdistrict choice is equivalent to statewide open enrollment.

Magnet schools are public schools which offer specialized programs. They are generally designed and located so as to attract students to otherwise unpopular areas or schools, and are often created to promote racial balance.

Postsecondary options are programs which enable high school students to enroll in college courses at government expense. Program courses may contribute to high school graduation requirements as well as to their college programs....

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