Arizona’s new school choice bill brings us closer to Milton Friedman’s vision
“Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the United States can choose for themselves which school their children go to,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman said in 2003. If we had that, a system of free choice, we would also have a system of competition, of innovation, which would change the character of education.
Last week, Arizona lawmakers brought us a lot closer to that ultimate outcome. Lawmakers in this state, which already had some of the strongest school choice policies in the United States, passed the nation’s first Universal Education Savings Account bill, expanding student choice. education for all students from kindergarten to grade 12.
Education Savings Accounts, or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts as they are known in Arizona, were previously available to certain Arizona students who met specific criteria, including students with special needs and children from military families. in active service. This new bill, which Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign, expands educational choice to all school-aged children throughout Arizona.
Each family will now have access to 90% of state education dollars per student, or approximately $7,000 per student, to be used for approved education-related resources, including school tuition. private schools, tutors, teaching materials, e-learning programs, etc. .
“Arizona is now the benchmark for school choice,” Corey DeAngelis, senior researcher at the American Federation for Children, told me this week. “All other states should follow Arizona’s lead and fund students instead of systems. Education funding is for the education of children, not for the protection of any particular institution. School choice is the only way to truly guarantee parental rights in education.
Several states have introduced or expanded school choice policies in the past two years, allowing taxpayer funding for education to go directly to students rather than bureaucratic school systems. On this week’s LiberatED podcast episode, I spoke with an education entrepreneur, Michelle McCartney, whose Homeschool Resource Center is an approved vendor for Education Freedom New Hampshire accounts, a education savings account program for income-eligible students that was introduced last year.
While McCartney sees a completely private and free education market as the ideal circumstance, she recognizes that education choice policies are an important first step toward expanding education options for more families and reduced government involvement in the education sector.
“If it were up to me, we wouldn’t pay the government anything and the school would be completely privatized,” McCartney said. “That’s how I think it should be, but it’s not. So I think we can all sit here and discuss what would be the ideal situation, but I think sometimes we have to go with what we have, and if we can give some of that money back to the families, I think that this is an important first step.
Indeed, Milton Friedman also viewed school choice policies such as vouchers as a first step in educational reform, not a final step. Friedman popularized the idea of school choice policies, particularly universal school vouchers, in his 1955 article, “The Role of Government in Education”, and developed his views over the following decades until when he died in 2006 at the age of 94.
Friedman and his economist wife Rose wrote in their influential book, Free to choose“We see the check plan as a partial solution because it affects neither school funding nor compulsory attendance laws. We are in favor of going much further.
While Arizona’s new legislation now makes it the forerunner of educational choice policies across the country, West Virginia is right behind and beginning to address mandatory attendance. Lawmakers recently passed legislation that relaxes state compulsory school attendance laws for participants in learning pods and microschools, two emerging, decentralized K-12 learning models that are gaining popularity in all the countries. West Virginia also passed a college savings account program, known as the Hope Scholarship, last year that expands educational choice to nearly all K-12 students.
The disruption to education over the past two years has reinvigorated parents and taxpayers. They are demanding more options beyond an assigned district school, embracing innovative learning models, and loosening the government’s grip on education. As Friedman envisioned, a choice-based education system weakens the government monopoly on education and sparks innovation and competition to ultimately “change the character of education.”
We see this change happening before our very eyes.
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This article originally appeared on FEE.org. Read the original article.