| June 19, 2008

School-Choice Momentum Continues

Last month Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed legislation enacting a new school choice program that imposes no demographic restrictions on which students may participate.

Under the program, all K-12 students in Georgia public schools are eligible to receive private school scholarships. The new program sets a limit of $50 million. In other states with similar programs, such limits have consistently been raised over time.

Georgia’s new school choice law continues a national trend toward school choice programs without student eligibility restrictions. Earlier this year, Louisiana enacted a new school choice program with eligibility extended to all Louisiana students. These programs join existing programs in Arizona, Vermont, Ohio, Maine, Illinois, and Iowa that impose no demographic restrictions for eligibility.

Additionally, school choice programs for disabled or foster-care students in Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Utah, and Arizona impose no other demographic restrictions.

“Children who will receive these scholarships will translate into less kids into juvenile detention, more who will graduate, and more who will wind up in the labor force,” said Lydia Glaize, a Fairburn parent who supported the legislation. “That’s a better standard of living for the entire Georgia community.”

With the new Georgia program, there are now 23 school choice programs in 14 states plus the District of Columbia (see chart). Two-thirds of these programs (15) have no family income restrictions for eligibility—nine have no demographic restrictions at all, and six are restricted only in that they serve disabled or foster-care students.

The old idea of limiting school choice based on family income is coming to an end. States are increasingly adopting Milton Friedman’s vision of school choice for all, not just for some. The argument that freedom is only good for some students just doesn’t make it anymore. School Choice Programs in the United States

Mr. Enlow is executive director of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

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