Commentary

Rose Friedman, R.I.P.–The Friedmans Left Families a Real School Choice Legacy

My colleague Brian Doherty offers an eloquent tribute to Rose Friedman and her contributions to liberty. He notes the role that the ideas and accomplishments of the Friedmans played in:

helping make America a place that is in some respects actually freer, and in most respects an intellectual environment where the idea of human liberty has wider play than it did before they did their long, arduous work of explaining the benefits of liberty, often against great opposition.

School choice is certainly one of those ideas that has much wider play despite great opposition. In remembering Rose Friedman, it is a perfect time to reflect on just how much progress has been made toward the 50-year old voucher idea to offer parents real education choice.

The greatest tribute to Rose and Milton Friedman is that school choice is no longer rare or controversial. Every year it becomes more the rule than the exception:

  • The Supreme Court validated the Friedman’s voucher idea in 2002.
  • More parents than ever report having more school choice. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that more than 50 percent of parents report that they have a school choice other than their residential school assignment.
  • The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reports on 26 school choice programs in 16 states.
  • More than 16 school districts have attached funding to the backs of children and ditched residential assignment for district-wide choice through student-based budgeting.
  • Developing a school choice program and strategy is common practice for most school districts in the United States.
  • Not to mention more than 4,000 charter schools, with funding attached to the backs of 1.8 million children.
  • In larger numbers, low-performing schools are being closed and replaced with school-of- choice options.

The bottom line is that millions of children have the Friedmans to thank for a higher quality education. The Friedmans have helped to make school choice a reality and that legacy will live on as even more families continue to have a larger number of higher-quality educational opportunities for their children.

Rest in Peace, Rose.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.