IP-17-1988 (August 1988)
Author: John K. Andrews, Jr.
“Better Schools through Wider Choice” was the topic when 100 conferees from 13 states gathered for the Western States Education Summit in Golden, Colorado, on June 17, 1988. This issue paper summarizes the proceedings.
Empowering parents to shop for their children’s needs in an open educational marketplace, and empowering teachers to respond flexibly in meeting those needs, were the main themes of the day. The feasibility of this approach was emphasized by Minnesota’s adoption of the Enrollment Options Act, removing all attendance boundaries between public schools, only a few weeks before.
It seemed apparent at the summit that Colorado is the likeliest laboratory in the region, perhaps in the country, for the next major experiment with educational choice. Discussion centered around two proposals already on the table: a legislative bill providing for public schools of choice (PSOC), and a petition to amend the state constitution so parents could receive vouchers good at any public or nonsectarian nonpublic school.
By day’s end, preferences had been clarified, coalition possibilities targeted, and implementation plans sketched out. The PSOC acronym, which you will find used throughout the following report, had become familiar to all. But there was not unanimity on what those four letters may spell as more states try them. Radical and healthy education reform, said some conferees. A placebo inadequate to cure the schools’ worst ills, said others. Read on and form your own conclusions.