Thursday, July 20, 2006


Did you notice that, last month, Iowa started a school-choice program for low-income families based on simple tax credits for individuals who want to help poor kids get into the schools of their choice, public or private? Gov. Tom Vilsack signed the Educational Opportunities Act (EOA), allowing thousands of low-income Iowa students the chance to receive scholarships to attend a school of their parents' choice.

If that isn't the answer to the Omaha Public Schools' embarrassing controversy, and to the Class I schools disaster in rural Nebraska, I don't know what is. Note that the bill got broad bipartisan support through the Iowa legislature and was signed by a Democratic governor -- usually a puppet of the state teachers' union, the major foe of school-choice initiatives nationwide.

Meanwhile, if you whisper the phrase "school choice" in the Nebraska Unicam, everybody faints from hostility attacks, and yet we supposedly have a populist/conservative set of lawmakers with a Republican governor. Why? Because, paradoxically, they are all the puppets of our state teachers' union, which in turn is operating on irrational fear instead of taking the bold, public-spirited problem-solving stance that it should be taking. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

Organizations such as the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education worked with national school-choice groups to draft a law that allows a 65 percent tax credit for individuals who make contributions to approved school tuition organizations (STOs). They then distribute scholarships to families to be used at a school of their choice.

Families must have an income that is at 300 percent or below of the federal poverty level. STOs must spend 90% of funds raised on scholarships, and scholarships may not exceed tuition at the child’s private school.

The program will be capped at $2.5 million for 2006 and will rise to $5 million later.

You can read more about it on www.friedmanfoundation.org

Note this quote: “We’re seeing an important shift in the support for school choice,” said Robert C. Enlow, executive director of the Friedman Foundation. “More and more legislators, parents and opinion makers from all sides of the political spectrum are realizing that the ability to choose a school is a fundamental freedom and that there are immense moral implications that come from denying families educational choice.”

No kidding.

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