Keep your fingers crossed but we may be seeing a breakthrough of serious proportions in education.
In early February, The Utah House of Representatives passed the "Parent Choice in Education Act" by a vote of 38 to 37.
Based on family annual income, every Utah parent with school-aged children, would be eligible for a voucher that could be used to pay tuition at any eligible private school. The vouchers range from $500 up to $3000.
The bill also includes eligibility for some parents who now pay for private schools, despite limited income. If these parents qualify for either free lunch or lunch price reduction, they too would be eligible.
The bill must now go to the Utah Senate, where chances of passage seem favorable; that body has twice passed a similar bill.
Even though school choice has produced good results and parents favor it by huge margins, opposition from the powerful teachers unions and their allies has been fierce.
Teachers are virtually guaranteed lifetime jobs, if they've acquired tenure. For those who perform poorly for an entire career, they stay on the job and receive constant raises. Competition threatens this comfortable arrangement.
Public School Achievement has been woeful for 30 years. During those years, the cry has always been the same, we can improve with more money. Public schools have continued getting more and more money, but the results have never come.
Taking the argument to the next step, the mantra of the unions and practically every Democrat in the U.S. House and U. S. Senate has been, that money that leaves with the vouchers deprives the public schools and hurts performance.
If the public schools had shown progress with increased money over several decades, that argument might make sense.
At any rate, that argument has been greatly diffused.
The new law would reimburse the public school district for those students who leave.
A provision of the Utah bill stipulates that for five years after a voucher student leaves his original public school, the district would get to keep a sizable amount the state had paid for his education.
Presently the average district gets $3,500 per student, from the state. It is estimated the average voucher will be about $2,000. A district losing a student would receive the difference. This would come to about $1,500 for each student leaving the public system.
It would have been better if the voucher could also be used when students transfer to other public schools; that could be an option for future bills.
Is The Potential Truly Significant?
The fact that every student in the state will be able to select his/her own school is what makes this bill so encouraging.
With the wide choice allowed to every student and the accompanying voucher, chances seem improved for healthy competition.
Hopefully that competition will yield solid results.
This may be the biggest step forward in years.