Celebrate School Choice Week!

Greg R. Lawson Jan 24, 2017

The Buckeye Institute was one of the first organizations in Ohio to argue for, and provide data defending, school choice in Ohio, and we are honored to celebrate School Choice Week.  It could not come at a better time for advocates for children, their parents, and meaningful education reform.

School choice means freedom for children to learn in the environment that best suits their needs, and this week thousands of Ohioans and many, many more Americans will celebrate what school choice has meant for them. 

In 1955, in his key work, “The Role of Government in Education,” Milton Friedman pioneered the concept of school choice through the use of vouchers that could be used by parents to purchase a wide range of educational opportunities for their children. The idea was to liberate students stuck in a one-size fits all government- and bureaucrat-run education. That idea took root and became the foundation for many experiments in vouchers across the country that allowed individual students to escape public school systems that weren’t working for them. 

Ohio leaders have a track record to be proud of when it comes to school choice.  In fact, Ohio led the way in the 1990s by creating a voucher program that rescued thousands of struggling students in Cleveland and allowed them to attend private schools.  This initial program even led to a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision, Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which tested whether vouchers could be allowed or whether they violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.  In a 5-4 majority, the Ohio program was found not to violate the Constitution and thus became a key plank for future school choice programs in Ohio and nationwide.

Now Ohio has 5 programs that service over 41,000 students including those with income challenges, those in failing school districts, and those with certain disabilities.  Ohio is further benefited by the partnership between The Buckeye Institute and School Choice Ohio.

Of course, there is more that can be done to enhance freedom.  Already, other states are taking the next step.  Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, take the voucher concept to the next level by allowing parents to retain money they haven’t used and roll it over for future education expenses or even to start paying for college!

Ohio should soon consider following the lead of states like Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee that have already embraced ESAs.

In the mean time, please join The Buckeye Institute this week, and all of those groups defending and expanding school choice in Ohio, as we celebrate our accomplishments and plan for an even brighter future.