School Choice Bandwagon

May 13, 1999

I have some advice for the public school establishment: they'd better rethink their positions before they get run over by the school choice bandwagon. Schools from Milwaukee to New York to Washington, D.C. are being transformed by an idea that is taking the nation by storm.

Of course there are different versions of school choice. There are vouchers that only can be used within the public school system. There is true educational choice that allows a parent to choose any school, public or private. And there are private sector examples of school choice.

State lawmakers in Florida have agreed on a plan to give vouchers to students from the state's worst-performing public schools so they can afford tuition for private education. Although a final vote still has to take place, it shows the public sentiment behind Governor Jeb Bush's plan which was a key part of his successful campaign.

A plan for school choice here in Texas is probably not going to go anywhere unless very legitimate concerns are addressed. Christians are rightly concerned that vouchers or any school choice program would be used by the state to further regulate Christian schools. Until such concerns are addressed and eliminated, school choice will not be a reality.

Meanwhile, private programs of school choice are flourishing. Billionaire Ted Forstmann has made 40,000 private school scholarships available to low-income kids in the New York City area. Already more than a million parents have applied for the aid, even though they must match the grant with their own money. By the way, the parents who will receive these grants are picked by lottery. I guess that gives new meaning to the term, "winning the lottery" and shows how desperate parents are to give their children a quality education.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.