Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Arthur Shapiro, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Steven Permuth, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William Benjamin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steve Lang, Ed.D.


courts, history, law, school, parental rights


This study provides an analysis of the historical and legal constructs of parental choice and implications for public education. While qualitative in nature, the historic record provides important detail in establishing a foundation for understanding parental authority in determining the education of children. An overview of major education legislation from the Colonial era to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is discussed as well as the legal analysis which consists of U.S. Supreme Court decisions influential in the debate over parental authority in determining the education of children. Conclusions include (a) data supporting parental choice as a growing phenomenon in which the power and influence of the federal government over public education is increasing and represents a fundamental shift from an egalitarian focus to a performance driven, standards-based approach; (b) opposition to parental choice is varied depending upon interest group and the type of parental choice in question; (c) the U.S. Supreme court consistently supports parental rights in determining the education of children; and (d) parental choice is here to stay. Implications of expanded parental choice options include (a) increasing federal control over k-12 public education, (b) less emphasis upon addressing social ills and more emphasis on quality of education, (c) resegregation occurring as "equal access" issues are considered secondary to improving academic performance, and (d) accountability, student performance, competition and other market factors will dominate the parental choice debate.