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Overview of Regional School Choice Environment

Some people have questions about Congressman Paul Ryan’s ability to help Romney win the state of Ohio in November. Apparently, it has something to do with an election in 1944, when adding an Ohioan to the Republican ticket actually helped to take the state against a wartime, incumbant President – no small feat, even at the state level. Then again, some early polls put Ryan at a 51% approval rating in Ohio, even though a third of them may not even know who the guy is.

But we here at American School Choice aren’t partisan. We believe in choice, and whichever party can deliver on education reform has our support. Granted, there are a number of other variables that go into our votes at the end of the day. For instance, starvation is deservedly a more important issue than school choice, but we don’t see many Americans starving and the old adage of “teaching a man to fish” is particularly appropriate at this juncture (Marx’s play on it is pretty amusing, too).

While we’re on the subject of Ohio, we’d like to point out that the state has an exemplary record on school choice. The Center for Education Reform gives the state a C+ grade for school choice. This may sound bad but the organization gave two school choice leader states, Florida and Arizona, a B- grade. Apparently, the CER will not be handing out an A grade anytime soon, and that kind of goal setting is admirable. No states deserve an A grade when we should be striving for perfection one choice at a time.

The reality is this: with the state expanding its online learning initiatives, a choice-happy Governor, a huge grassroots campaign in the form of School Choice Ohio, and 368 operational charter schools, Ohio is one of the leaders in American school choice today.

Its neighbors to the north, east, and west are also taking charge in the school choice revolution. One of our favorite graphics on the web is this map offered by the Heritage Foundation, which allows you to hover over a state and catch a snapshot of its school choice environment. Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have some of the strongest charter school laws in the country. Contrast this to Ohio’s neighbors to the south, Kentucky and West Virginia, who are two of the only ten states not to have passed charter school legislation yet, and it starts to appear as if the north-central region of the U.S. is leading by example.

This doesn’t mean that other regions aren’t coming along as well. Florida launched its charter school laws in 1997, one of the most sweeping and earliest pieces of school choice legislation. Georgia and Louisiana are jumping on board to lead the southeast. Arizona offers a variety of school choice options, and this has obviously spread westward because no state west of Utah (with the exception of Washington) is considered to have poor school options.

But one can’t help but wonder why ten states have yet to pass charter legislation. They are as follows: Washington, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont, Maine, and Alabama. Some of these states are working on it. For instance, Alabama’s charter legislation has been passed in and out of their congress so many times the pages caught fire and the law had to be rewritten. It has since fallen out of interest and will not likely reemerge until the dark lord Cthulhu calls the AEA┬áback home.

The real questions are put to you.

“Do you know your charter legislation?”

“Do you know who the allies to school choice are in your state?”

“Do you know anything standing in the way to school choice?”

Whether you answered yes or no to these questions, get involved. Every dollar counts and every event you attend can benefit the larger cause. Americans need to find something to feel passionate about again. We need a revolution, and this is it!

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