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A victory for choice

It was the narrowest of margins, but Utah just approved the country's first universal school voucher program. It's about time.

And I'm cautiously optimistic that my former home state of South Carolina may be next. Mark Sanford, who is not only America's most libertarian governor but perhaps my favorite living politician as well, is going to try to make that happen.

[Sanford] wants to create more choice within the public system by consolidating school districts so students who can't afford to live in a certain zip code aren't forced into the worst public schools -- a system that now consigns thousands of African-American students to failing schools. In his State of the State Address last month, Mr. Sanford branded the current districts a "throwback to the era of segregation." The comment drew hardly a flutter in the legislature, he told us, because "everyone knows it's true."

Indeed. And true to the pattern, South Carolina has proven once again that merely throwing money at the public school system is not the answer.

Despite a 137% increase in education spending over the past two decades and annual per pupil spending that exceeds $10,000, South Carolina schools trail the nation in performance. The state ranks 50th in SAT scores, only half of its students graduate from high school in four years and only 25% of eighth graders read at grade level. The Governor's budget puts it this way: "The more we expose students to public education, the worse they do."
Good luck, Governor. I know some of the people who'll be actively helping you in this fight, and they're damn good folks to have on your side. I'll be watching with keen interest.

With a little luck and hard work, I think we can win this fight the way we won a huge gun rights victory with the "concealed carry" revolution. The first few states were tough wins, but after they'd been shown to be successes, concealed carry quickly and quietly became the law of the land throughout most of the country. Let's do the same with school choice.


That's a nice first step towards the goal of getting the government completely out of education.

I've long thought that vouchers were great in theory, but I have questions about how they would work in practice on a large scale.

What happens when people become convinced that certain schools are the "better" schools, and the demand for a few slots drives up tuition such that vouchers aren't really effective, and the poor kids still end up going to the less competitive schools?

Still, it'll be interesting to see how the Utah experiment turns out.

Read this to the ex- schoolteacher Missus. She said: "Give me 25 students and a quarter mil and I guarantee they will have a first rate education." Anyone up for field trips to Japan?

I know this is an old thread, but there's an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer about The Belmont 112, a group of 6th graders promised a free college education 20 years ago. It's more than a little disheartening to hear how things turned out, given the essentially unlimited funds put forth.


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