Idaho gives seventh graders $4,125 each to customize their high-school educations.
Faced with public education’s failure to adapt to Covid-19, parents who can afford it are pooling their resources and hiring private tutors to lead home-based “pod” schools. Dreading the prospect of a mass exodus of families from traditional public schools, progressive pundits are condemning these parents for pioneering “the latest in school segregation.” But education policy makers truly committed to “equity” should look past the current crisis for ways to serve students better within the traditional public-school system.
More than half of Idaho’s high-school seniors are enrolled in college—many remotely—thanks to its four-year-old “Advanced Opportunities” program. When Idaho students reach seventh grade, the state provides them with $4,125 that they can use to customize their high-school education. Depending on their career and educational goals, students can use the money to earn college credit by taking courses that are taught online, on campus, or by high-school teachers in partnership with professors. They can also use the funds to pay for Advanced Placement exams, professional certification tests, and, as of this school year, workforce development and apprenticeship courses.
The past 25 years of education reform has been defined by top-down initiatives intended to close the achievement gap. But Idaho state Sen. Steven Thayn had a different vision when he started the program that would eventually become Advanced Opportunities. A former high-school teacher and dairy farmer who splits time between writing laws and baling hay, Mr. Thayn wanted to fix “public education’s fundamental flaw”—the idea that “the state could educate students without the help of parents.”
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