Feb. 5, 2021, 6:38 p.m. Eastern time.
The Biden administration appears willing to bow to teachers’ unions that oppose charter and private schools. Republicans in more than a dozen states have responded to parents’ frustration with school closures by passing legislation to expand educational choice.
Last week, the Iowa Senate passed a bill allowing students assigned to low-performing public schools to use education savings accounts (ESPs), which are similar to vouchers but can also be used for textbooks, tutoring, etc. Parents can carry over unused funds to subsequent years.
The legislation also provides for the creation of charter schools that are independent of local school districts; currently there are only two charter schools in the state. The bill increases the tax credit for tuition and textbooks from $250 to up to $1,000 per student and provides a tax credit for home-schooled children. “If the pandemic has taught us anything about education, it’s that our parents have choices to make. And it’s not just personal, it’s virtual”.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Florida Republican Senator Manny Diaz has introduced a bill to merge the state’s current scholarship programs with taxpayer-funded ESA programs. About 200,000 students participate in the state’s existing programs, only one of which uses ESA. ESA would give parents more flexibility in spending their money.
A GOP senator in Arizona is proposing to extend the AES provision to states that currently have fewer than 10,000 students in narrow categories – low-income students statewide. Republicans in New Hampshire and Missouri are also pushing for ESA laws. Lawmakers in Nebraska are debating a new tax-advantaged scholarship program, and Republicans in Arizona want to increase the overall cap on the state’s tax-advantaged scholarship program from $5 million to $20 million over three years.
Public schools in 33 states have lost 500,000 students since the 2019-2020 school year, according to a December analysis by the Associated Press-Chalkbeat. Many parents with financial means enrolled their children in private schools or formed “groups” with classmates under guardians. Some are home-schooled.
But most parents cannot afford these options. They already pay through their taxes for public schools that remain closed and for distance learning that is often terrible and leaves their children far behind – with consequences that can last a lifetime.
The unions’ boycott of education during the pandemic was a disappointing revelation to millions of parents. Especially since too many politicians, including those in the Biden administration, made a commitment to the unions. Republicans are wisely using this learning moment to offer students more alternatives to the monopoly of union education.
Wonderland: A coronavirus pandemic could forever change the role of public education in the United States. Images: Zuma Press/Reuters/Getty Images Compilation: Mark Kelly
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Published in print on February 6, 2021.
Frequently asked questions
Which states allow school choice?
There are 29 voucher programs in 18 states: Arkansas, Florida (2), Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana (2), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (2), New Hampshire, North Carolina (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin (4), and Washington and Puerto Rico.
Is there a school choice in the United States?
In the 2016-17 school year, 7,011 charter schools in 43 states and the District of Columbia served approximately 6% of all public school students. In addition to the extensive range of school choice programs in the public school system, parents also have the option of sending their children to private schools.
How does school choice affect public schools?
When public schools know that students have a choice and can leave with vouchers, they have a much stronger incentive to improve performance and prevent students from leaving. Evidence: Vouchers have been shown to work well for disadvantaged students and improve their performance.