School Choice Updates: East Coast, West Coast
On January 26, 2011, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduced H.R. 471.pdf and S. 206.pdf, respectively, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR Act).pdf (summary), to renew the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which expired at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. The renewed program would provide scholarships of up to $8,000 (elementary school) and up to $12,000 (high school) to families whose income does not exceed 185 percent of the federal poverty level, to attend a DC private school of their choice.
On the west coast, the choice news is a bit different. In January 2010, California enacted the refreshing parent trigger law.pdf, which gives parents the opportunity to make major changes to failing schools. Under the "parent trigger," one-half of parents can, by petition, demand that a failing school be shut down, change its staff, or become a charter school. In the last few months of 2010, this came to the forefront in Compton, CA, where about 60 percent of the parents at McKinley Elementary School petitioned to turn the failing school into a public charter school. There’s still a ways to go. According to the Los Angeles Times.pdf, newly-appointed members of the State Board of Education announced they needed more time to review issues associated with the trigger. The board is responsible for regulations governing the program. Time will tell how it all sorts out. Stay tuned.