School vouchers are the brainchild of famed economist Milton Friedman in 1955. His theory was quite simple: by eradicating the public school monopoly and injecting competition into the public school system, the system would become more flexible and responsive to parents and children.
Soon after the Wisconsin legislature established the first voucher program for the city of Milwaukee, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a statewide voucher plan that later failed in the House of Representatives. Milwaukee’s success has transformed the city so much that Republicans and Democrats alike hail the program as a model for the rest of the country.
In addition to Milwaukee, voucher programs sprang up in Cleveland and Florida, not to mention tax credit/deduction programs in Minnesota, Arizona and Illinois. Since Florida’s initial program showed amazing results, the legislature created a voucher program for children with special needs, as well as a $50 million corporate tax credit program.
In Pennsylvania, former Governor Tom Ridge came excruciatingly close to enacting voucher programs three times during his term. Finally, just six months before he resigned to help protect America as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he was able to pass an education tax credit that has helped over 33,000 children this year alone. Persistence pays off!
With the U.S. Supreme Court lifting the constitutional cloud over school vouchers in 2002, parents in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation are energized and are demanding more choice in their children’s education every year.