Parents are the major force driving school choice and labor unions represent the major obstacle to it, but some of the most important groups in the debate are those who are so far largely absent from the discussion.
Businesses and corporations, who spend billions of dollars each year on remedial education and training for their employees ($55 billion in 1996 alone), have yet to fully realize the importance of their involvement in the school choice debate. According to one Proposition 174 campaign organizer, the initiative lost in part because "business wimped out." Businesses either did not see the need to support school choice or wished to avoid the controversy, and in the end, their ambivalence helped the opposition to outspend pro-174 advocates 7-to-1.124
In the last few years, however, business leaders have begun to recognize the need for educational reform that harnesses the same incentive that made their companies successful: competition. Groups including the National Association of Manufacturers now publicly support school choice to improve education. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in April 1999 that stated in part, "The Chamber supports the elimination of the present constitutional prohibition on education choice and supports flexibility in funding Michigan's education needs through a Universal Tuition Tax Credit, vouchers, or similar approaches."125
As the failure of government education continues to force companies to provide expensive remedial training on the job, more businesses will adopt a position in favor of school choice as a means of improving all educationwhether government or private.126
The Religious Community
Also noticeably absent from the school choice debate is the religious community. Although private schools are operated primarily by churches, the vast majority of religious groups and denominations have not taken an official position on this important issue. If and when they do, their impact on the debate will be significant.