As Indiana rolls out the nation's most ambitious school choice program with the start of the school year, Ohio is in the midst of ramping up its cutting-edge program at lightning speed. This is the future of education in America, happening right now, and there is a monumental tug-of-war going on between parents, students and taxpayers, and the monopolizing establishment.

At stake: The fundamental question of who gets to make the decision about how best to spend taxpayer money on education "” parents or others.

Eligibility for Ohio's voucher program "EdChoice Scholarship" is based upon assignment to a public school that has been rated in "academic emergency" or placed on "academic watch" for two of the past three years. A student can earn a scholarship worth up to $4,250 per year for elementary and middle school and up to $5,000 per year for high school tuition at any private school. Scholarships are renewable.

Money, Power

This isn't about separation of church and state. That argument is disingenuous, just a transparent veil for the real reason "” it's about money and who gets to decide where it is spent. And it's about power and who gets to wield it. Besides, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that vouchers were constitutional.

This isn't about "values indoctrination" at private schools. That is the height of hypocrisy because a public school education is nowhere near values neutral. There are battles over curriculum and policy happening every day in every school district across America.

This isn't about the taxpayer's role in government decision-making. The argument that taxpayers don't get a say where roads are built or when/where we go to war or numerous other public matters is moot. In education, we're talking about one of the most personal and important pillars of the American experience.

This isn't even about whether public schools are good. Many are. Cincinnati Public Schools are rapidly improving (26 percent were rated "excellent" last year, compared to 18 percent the year before and 13 percent the year before that). But more goes into a school decision than whether it performs well. Other factors include environment, support structure, faculty, curricula and peers.

And it's not about whether the less advantaged should have the same opportunities that the more advantaged have, although that by itself is the most compelling individual argument for choice.

Role of the Citizen

It's all simply about the proper role of the citizen versus the state. As always, the citizen and liberty should come first. All parents, not just those in poor and/or underperforming districts, should have a choice in something so vital to their children's lives and not be discriminated against based on geography or economics.

But no establishment ever relinquishes power voluntarily, especially when it has acquired so much. It's always focused on growing power, regardless of facts, what's best for the nation or even common sense. Despite the crumbling of public education (we spend more than other nations "” $13,449 per pupil in Cincinnati last year, up from $9,983 in 2002 "” yet score poorly on international tests), the education establishment is desperate to hang on. This cry of "we just need more money" isn't flying anymore, and people are waking up. If the establishment has to be dragged kicking and screaming, so be it.

Says Patrick Byrne, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice: "That is, after all, the purpose of a monopoly: to sell an inferior product at high price while resisting innovation. "¢ When parents have more choices, kids benefit, taxpayers come out ahead, and the best teachers are freed to teach."

Ohio's "EdChoice" program had 2,713 students in its first year in 2007. There were 14,000 last year and 17,003 this year. Gov. John Kasich is increasing the number of vouchers available next year to 60,000. Indiana will offer unlimited vouchers by 2013. Kentucky does not have a choice program but is working to pass its first charter school law. At least 30 states introduced school choice bills through mid-summer.

Clearly, this movement is gaining steam. 
All aboard.