Earthquake in Arizona
Last night an earthquake rocked the school choice movement in America. The Arizona legislature approved a bill, sending it to the Governor, that extends school choice to every student in the Grand Canyon state. When fully phased in, every parent in the state will be able to choose the best educational setting for their child.
You may remember that Arizona was the first state to create the original Education Savings Accounts, which — like Mississippi’s — started out with eligibility limited to students with special needs. But unlike Mississippi, the Arizona legislature came back every year since its inception in 2011 to expand eligibility to additional children. What started as a program focused on students with special needs was expanded to foster students, children of active-duty military members, students who lived in districts with failing schools, those living on Indian reservations, and now every child in the state.
Arizona has long been a leader in the school choice and education reform movements. They first approved charter schools in the early 1990s and today approximately 15 percent of public school students attend one of the more than 600 charter schools in the state. Since then, Arizona has created a variety of private school choice programs so that today nearly 60,000 children are able to attend private schools because of a school choice scholarship.
With such a large percentage of Arizona students exercising school choice, I bet the remaining students – those “left behind” – in traditional public schools are really suffering.
Traditional public school students in Arizona have made massive achievement gains in recent years. From 2009 to 2015 Arizona’s fourth graders led the nation in growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Science test. Science scores for eighth grade students also increased significantly over the same time period. Arizona has “emerged as a leader in closing the achievement gap,” according to the Arizona Department of Education.
It turns out, when parents are given the opportunity to choose the best school for their children, children in both schools of choice and traditional public schools do better. We applaud Arizona for their pioneering approach to education and for trusting parents to make good decisions for their children.
School choice is on the move and coming to a state near you.
It’s your move, Mississippi!
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