School Choice (skül-chȯis)
Parental choice or school choice is the most promising approach to reforming education in Rhode Island and across the United States, giving families the power to select the schools that would best serve their own children. We need to stand up for our students!
Choice makes schools more accountable because students whose schools are failing them can go somewhere else.
Choice improves educational results because schools that don't get the job done don't just fail their students, they just fail.
Choice ensures better value for taxpayers' and families' dollars because it puts successful education back at the top of the list of priorities for our state.
School choice is also the fastest way to ensure that Rhode Islanders student have better opportunities to learn right away. We need for dollars to go straight to the classroom, not to the bureaucracy. Politicians, administrators, teachers unions, and government agencies may be able to afford wait years for other reforms to bear fruits ... but our children cannot wait.
Parents understand that every year of delay is a lost year for their kids ... another graduating class that has lost opportunities.
EVERYchild in America deserves an excellent education. And every school should succeed. Period. No excuses.
Families need to be able to put their children's interests ahead of the special interests - every child deserves a Bright Today!
Types of School Choice Programs
Bright Today Scholarship Accounts
Also called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts or Education Savings Accounts, ESAs give parents the greatest flexibility and the most options. Participating families receive savings accounts into which government agencies, family members, and charities can deposit money, and they can use the funds for multiple purposes related to education.
Parents can use the funds in their ESAs for a wide variety of purposes, including private and public school tuition, online learning programs, tutoring, and even tuition and costs at colleges or universities.
Vouchers allow parents the choice of which school to re-direct public money intended for the education of their children. The two main differences from ESAs are that voucher money goes directly to the school of the parent's choice (instead of first to the parent's savings account), and; can only be used for tuition (and not for other types of educational instruction).
With tax-credit scholarships, companies or individuals can donate money to nonprofit organizations called "scholarship granting organizations (SGOs)" for the purpose of providing private-school scholarships to children in need. Rhode Island currently has an extremely limited version of this school choice program.
Individual Tax Credits/Deductions
While tax-credit scholarships give people and companies a reason to donate toward the education of other people's children, individual tax credits/deductions allow parents and guardians to claim tax benefits for what they spend on their children's education. The restrictions can be narrow or broad, allowing tax deductions for tuition only or allowing tax credits for anything having to do with school, including private school tuition, books, supplies, computers, tutors, and transportation.
Alternative Schooling Options
Private schools are educational institutions run independently of the government. Their focus can be religious, academically intensive, athletically intensive, and/or specialized for specific groups of students. Private schools typically charge tuition, but not always. Across the United States, more than six million students attend nearly 34,000 private schools.
Homeschooling is education outside of all school structures, typically within the students' own homes. In some states, parents are able to create their own curricula, while other states require standardized tests, curriculum approval, and regular professional evaluation. As of 2007, 1.5 million students were being homeschooled.
Charter schools are independent public schools that are exempt from many state and local rules and regulations. Typically, the government department that oversees public education in the state will reserve the right to revoke the charters of schools that do not perform at a higher level. Across the country 42 states and Washington, D.C., have 2.3 million students attending 6,000 charter schools.
Rhode Island does have a dozen and a half charter schools. However, according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity's Competitiveness Report Card, , the state's charter school laws rank at an abysmal D, according to the Center for Education Reform.
Currently, online learning is most often used as a supplement to other schooling options, as a way for advanced students to get ahead and challenged students to catch up. Students work with their curricula and teachers over the Internet. In 2009-10, an estimated 1,816,400 students were enrolled in distance-education courses, almost entirely online. Another 275,000 students were enrolled full-time in online schools during 2011-2012.
Note: Much of the information for this page, and some of the language, comes from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, with permission. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is proud to be a local partner of the Foundations, striving to increase the rights of Rhode Island students and their parents.