The modern debate over school choice—the right, freedom, and ability of parents to choose for their children the safest and best schools—first emerged as a public policy issue in the United States in the 1950s.  It has taken over 40 years, however, for the advocates of greater choice and competition in education to grow into a nationwide movement strong enough to attract the attention of policy-makers at all levels of government. 

Only a few years ago, the idea of allowing parents greater freedom to choose their children's schools was considered unnecessary, unrealistic, and even undesirable by some.  Today, however, school choice is the centerpiece of education reform discussions across the nation.  The repeated failure of past reforms to cure the ills of poorly performing government schools has led to widespread frustration among parents, students, teachers, and other education professionals.  Citizens—whether black or white, rich or poor, urban or suburban, Democrat or Republican—are now demanding in increasing numbers the freedom to choose more and better alternatives to their local public schools.  They are, in short, demanding greater school choice.

Such broad-based public support for fundamental educational reform makes it essential that parents, policy-makers, teachers, and others concerned with the quality of education in the United States understand the facts—and avoid the myths—surrounding school choice.  This three-part primer is designed to educate and inform citizens about all aspects of school choice and equip them to participate in the debate as fully informed members of their communities.  The comprehensive text 

  • Provides a brief historical review of the origins and growth of tax-funded schools throughout the United States generally and how they came to be synonymous with "public education"; 

  • Demonstrates the failure of many popular education reforms of the past and present—including ever-increasing funding and burdensome regulations—to significantly improve the quality of government education; 

  • Explains the different school choice programs throughout the nation.  The discussion includes intra- and inter-district choice, charter schools, tuition vouchers and tax credits, universal tuition tax credits, and private scholarships; Identifies the barriers to education reforms and dispels myths about school choice; and

  • Outlines strategic plans that parents and other concerned citizens can follow to advance the cause for greater school choice and sustain hard-fought school choice victories.

Several appendices include a glossary that explains various choice terms and proposals, including vouchers and tuition tax credits; a sample illustration of how to advocate school choice with letters to the editors of local newspapers; and a list of where to go for more information on school choice and other education reform issues.