These last days I’ve been in 4th International Conference on School Choice and Reform in Fort Lauderdale (Miami). This event was sponsored by the Journal of School Choice, it was hosted by the National Institute for Educational Options at Nova Southeastern University and in cooperation with the European Association for Education Law and Policy. Among all the sponsors of the conference we can underline the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Alliance for School Choice, HSLDA or the Heritage Foundation.
This conference was a big and unique opportunity to know about the last investigations and research concerning School Choice. Many subjects related to School Choice were considered from different approaches (legal, sociologically, economically, politically…).
Thanks to this conference we learned a lot on the most important legal aspects of the US educational system, especially that education is almost exclusively a State competency – not a federal one. We also learned a lot on the similarities with other education systems, and particularly that many disputes concerned the separation of State and Church.
That Conference was also a good opportunity for OIDEL to learn on the last research concerning school choice, allowing us to know more about the strengths and advantages of school choice as well as about the inefficiencies and failures of these systems and how to improve them. For instance, there is evidence that many low-income families are not benefiting from school choice systems due to the different motivations and needs of middle-class and high-income families. However, if the educational policies consider these different needs when developing School Choice systems, they involve all parents in the elaboration of these policies and they train them on how to choose school education. Thus School Choice becomes the best practice to empower low-income families.
It was really interesting for us to learn about different and new ways of developing School Choice policies and that there is no unique way of developing School Choice. We can consider now new original ways to develop freedom of education policies. For instance, in the state of Florida companies can deduct donations (to churches, schools, foundations…) from the taxes they have to pay. Many NGOs and associations of civil society have organized themselves in order to persuade these companies to make donations for the creation of Charter schools and subsidize enrollment fees of poor kids in order for them to be able to attend this schools. This successful policy has allowed almost 50% of children to attend Charter Schools in the state of Florida.
One of the best inputs of the Conference was the unique platform it was for networking between people working in the domain of the right to education and freedom of education, to share experience, projects and research. Coordination among all actors working in this field is in fact essential.