Thursday, March 24, 2022

Still moving in the right direction


I joined the OCPA board in 1994 then left to join the staff in 1995. For nearly three decades now, I’ve been making the case in numerous publications and public forums that every parent should be empowered to take their child’s per-student spending to the school of their choice.

Fifteen years ago, before Oklahoma had any private-school choice programs, The Oklahoman asked me for a column on what I thought education in Oklahoma would look like in 25 years. My answer: “I don't know. The God of history—‘Divine Providence,’ in the words of the signers of the Declaration—stands outside of history and directs it without consulting me.” But with that caveat in place, I went on to explain why I thought Oklahoma would increasingly embrace parental choice in education.

“We should seek to restore the American tradition of educational freedom and consumer choice, a tradition that predates and lasted longer than our current practice of delivering education through a monopoly,” I wrote. “There’s good reason to believe we’ll move in that direction in the next 25 years.”

And indeed we have. Oklahoma now has two private-school scholarship programs, and most Oklahoma students are eligible to apply. We still have a long way to go—an Oklahoma Empowerment Account for any parent who wants one (still a possibility for 2022)—but it’s pretty clear to me that the momentum is on our side. Indeed, the destructive trends we’re seeing in the government’s system leave me more optimistic than ever that policymakers will eventually get it right.

Having lived through the history represented in the table below, I am unfazed by any one roll call in any one legislative chamber in any one year. In public policy, longtime Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner likes to say, “there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats, just permanent battles.” Year after year, the goal remains the same: We win, and they lose.


Year

Major Private-School Choice Victories in Oklahoma

1994


1995


1996


1997


1998


1999


2000


2001


2002


2003


2004


2005


2006


2007


2008


2009


2010

Created a private-school voucher program for special-needs students

2011

Created a private-school tax-credit scholarship program

2012


2013


2014


2015


2016


2017

Expanded voucher eligibility to foster children and children adopted out of state custody

2018


2019


2020


2021

Raised the tax-credit cap for private-school scholarships to $25 million

2022


2023

TBD

2024

TBD

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