Policy Documents

Oklahoma's Keystone Choice: A Garden in Winter, with Lots of Sunshine

Patrick B.McGuigan –
February 2, 2011

Around America, the month of January saw a dramatic surge of school choice proposals in at least four states, programs designed actually to empower parents in deed, not merely in rhetorical flourishes.

On January 11 in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, Senators Anthony H. Williams (a Democrat) and Jeffrey E. Piccola (a Republican) released details of a plan to allow low-income families to seek scholarships to send children to schools of their choice. Pennsylvania already has a widely praised scholarship program, but the new proposal would increase the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) by $25 million.

Also last month, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey went full speed ahead on a panoply of reforms, including invigorated choice for parents and students, to include access to private providers of educational services.

Praising Christie’s bold moves, announced in the Garden State’s January 11 State of the State address, was Derrell Bradford, executive director of a group dubbed E3 (Excellent Education for Everyone). Bradford said Christie understands “the fierce urgency of now.” He asserted, “We have had too many decades of spending and delay, but no solutions, and we’ve lost a million or more children during that time. Our children deserve choices and reform and they deserve them now.”

Christie has the help of Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C., who became a national figure due to Waiting for ‘Superman.’ The powerful documentary made clear that problems in American education are not limited to decaying urban centers, but reach the suburbs, where buildings are nice but academic quality is too often slipping.