School choice remains a popular idea, but public-education activists see a grave threat.

Quentin Quade and Mark Weston are both staunch school-choice advocates. But from very similar vantage points, they express remarkably different perspectives on where their cause is headed.

Quade, a national networker for school choice at Marquette University in Wisconsin, sees the voucher movement building populist momentum despite legal setbacks. In the end, it will triumph, he believes.

Yet Weston, an official at the Education Commission of the States, sees the school-choice movement, though an important influence on public education, as being outgunned and outfinanced by existing special-interest groups, particularly teachers’ unions, which have successfully contested school-choice initiatives.

Nationally, lawyers, legislators, educators, and judges are responding to parental demands for taxpayer financed, parent-controlled school-voucher programs. Voucher programs are a critical component in the larger public-education reform movement, driven by decades of weakening test scores, high education costs, and the triple threat to children from drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and inner-city violence.

WORRIED PARENTS: About a year ago, school vouchers were given up for dead by many educational analysts. It is now one of the areas of greatest ferment within the school-reform movement. State and federal elections last year swept into power many officeholders who are sympathetic to parents worried about their lack of influence over their children’s education.

Among Christians, school-voucher activity has been focused on passing legislation to permit religious organizations to use public funds for education in a way that would withstand a court challenge. ...

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