School districts across America are transitioning from the traditional model of assigning students to a school based on their residential address to a system that allows families a choice of schools. Depending on the district, families can choose public charter schools, affordable private schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, and regular public schools in which enrollment is based on parental preference rather than zip code. Districts differ in which of these options is available, the ease with which parents can exercise the choices available to them, and the degree to which the choice system results in greater access to quality schools.
In order to shine light on those distinctions, the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings released an annual Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI) that chronicles how school choice is progressing in the nation’s largest school districts. The fourth iteration of the ECCI was released today at an event featuring a keynote address from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn).
As Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee, Senator Alexander is arguably the most influential person in the country in shaping the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). His recently released discussion draft of an ESEA bill includes provisions to support charter schools, magnet schools, and school transfer for students in the lowest performing public schools. At Brookings, he discussed his vision for the distinctive roles of the federal government vs. states and local communities in American education and school choice.
After his keynote remarks, Senator Alexander further discussed his perspective with Brown Center Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst and answered questions from the audience.