The Arkansas Miracle

There’s something amazing happening in Arkansas right now. That something is House Bill 1897, and it’s coming before the Education Committee of the Arkansas State House next Tuesday, April 2nd at 10 am.

A friend brought the issue to my attention just this week, and quite frankly, I was floored. HB 1897 is truly revolutionary educational reform. Why? Well as the father of four children, it irritates me that my choices for my children’s education is somewhat limited. Sure, in Virginia I can homeschool or send my children to private school. But the money for that education would come out of my pocket in addition to the property taxes I already pay.

What HB 1897 does is allow money to follow the parents of students. Wherever parents decide is the best education for their child, or children, they would be able to spend $5,766 per child every year ($5,766 is 92% of what the state of Arkansas gives each school district per child every year for costs). But here’s the other aspect of it: that money can be spent on public, private, charter or alternative schooling as long as that school or educational system meets some minimum standards.

Imagine a world in which you as a parent could decide how your tax dollars are spent to educate your child. It would revolutionize the educational system. It would force massive competition for dollars, which in turn would provide a better product, which of course leads to a better education for our children. But it gets better for the states that would institute such reform: if the cost of the school chosen by a parent costs less than the $5,766 per year, the state of Arkansas gets the difference.

Of course you can be assured that the teachers’ unions will be screaming bloody murder, horrified at the thought that their monopoly might be broken up. But by passing this bill, Arkansas could begin a very serious movement, one that, if other states would take it up, would bring real educational reform. As a little cherry on top, the passing of such legislation could, and most likely would, break the political power of the teachers’ unions.

To me it’s a winning proposition all around. That’s why, should HB 1897 become law in Arkansas, it will truly be the Arkansas miracle and set the standard for the rest of the nation.