It's Official, 2015 is the New "Year of Educational Choice"

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 2015 is almost over. And boy, what a year it has been. We finally saw a successful reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, waved goodbye as our policy friend Ben DeGrow carried the reform torch to Michigan (where he’ll be needing all the warm torches he can get), and watched as yours truly turned into a slightly snarkier six-year-old.

But we can—and will—do a full rundown of 2015’s adventures later. For now, I want to focus on what the year meant for our nation in terms of educational choice. In short, it meant an awful lot.

Earlier this year, I wondered whether 2011’s “Year of School Choice” might see a repeat in 2015. As it turns out, history did repeat (and even beat) itself; 2011’s educational choice gains were eclipsed by massive leaps forward across the nation in 2015.  Fifteen states adopted 21 new or expanded educational choice programs this year, compared to 13 states in 2011. That, my friends, is a whole lotta choice.

Faithful choice supporter Jason Bedrick of the Cato Institute was there to celebrate the success educational choice in 2015 with a fantastic blog post. Jason’s post lays out a full picture of the landscape of educational choice in 2015, including a bunch of helpful information and links that I strongly recommend you peruse.

A man after my own heart, Jason also uses the opportunity to highlight decided and pending legal battles over educational choice programs across the country. I shed a tear (only one, I swear!) after seeing Colorado on the list thanks to the Dougco voucher decision, though I’m still hoping to see that case carry the argument against Blaine Amendments all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, I’d like to offer a heartfelt congratulation to parents and students in Louisiana and North Carolina, where choice programs survived legal attacks from very different angles. I also wish all the best to choice supporters in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Oklahoma as they continue to fight the good fight for kids and parents in their states.

Seeing Jason’s list of school choice litigation—a list that doesn’t even include other ongoing types of reform litigation—reminds me that I should probably stop waiting for reform opponents like the teachers unions to “return education policy where it belongs: the legislature.” For now, though, I can take comfort in the fact that on the whole, educational choice is winning. And it’s winning almost everywhere (ridiculous Washington Supreme Court decision on charter schools notwithstanding).

As my policy friend Ross Izard said in an op-ed published last summer:

The ever-growing wave of educational choice sweeping across America makes clear that parents and students everywhere are hungry for more educational options. Like dominoes, state after state is embracing the notion that every child deserves access to the educational opportunities he or she needs to build a bright future, regardless of where those opportunities exist.

Educational choice is no longer a purely philosophical debate or a quest only for the politically bold. It is no longer a discussion held quietly in the backrooms of state capitols or the halls of think tanks and universities. Rather, educational choice has grown into a full-throated, bipartisan movement toward more options, more fairness, and more opportunity for students and families.

Educational choice is the new normal. It’s time for Colorado to join the crowd.

It’s time, indeed. I’m happy to see Americans embracing educational choice in a wide variety of states, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel a tiny bit jealous. It’s high time for Colorado to get with the program and pass our own educational choice program. Here’s hoping that 2016 will be the Year of Educational Choice for Colorado kids!