School choice is gaining ground against the teachers unions despite the pandemic; maybe even because of the pandemic. For years the teachers unions have tried to portray school choice as a threat to the education of children, but the argument is losing traction. Parents of both political parties are seeing school choice for what it really is – a chance for children of all economic classes to get a good education.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board says it’s been a banner year for school choice. Across the nation, states are providing more opportunities for children to take advantage of school choice options. They mention four state budgets that passed in the last two weeks in which lawmakers included provisions that give families more educational opportunities.
In New Hampshire, Republican lawmakers approved Education Freedom Accounts, which students can use toward such expense as private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks and technology. Scholarship funds are available to families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty limit (FPL) at an average of $4,600, the state per pupil funding amount for public school students. The state Education Department estimates the program could save the state at least $360 million over a decade. Imagine that – saving money while giving kids better educational opportunities!
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed a budget that includes an expansion of a high-demand state tax-credit scholarship program. No, it wasn’t the governor’s idea, but the GOP legislature pushed the measure and now Mr. Wolf wants to get the credit. The Educational Improvement Tax Credit cap will rise by $40 million to $175 million for K-12 scholarships, enough to fund an estimated 13,000 more students.
Ohio also packaged several school choice provisions into their budget that Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed last week. These include funding for high-performing charter schools and higher scholarship values for the state’s voucher program. The Legislature also created a new K-12 Educational Savings Accounts (ESA) program, which offers students a modest $500.
Progress in school choice is not limited to the east. In Arizona, the Legislature raised the funding cap for a special-needs tax credit scholarship program and allowed low-income students at struggling public schools to switch to the state’s ESA program without a waiting period. It could have been better, however, as lawmakers, including three Republicans, rejected an expansion of ESAs to 600,000 more low-income students.
Seven states have created new tax-credit scholarship or ESA programs this year, and more than a dozen have expanded programs. The benefit will flow to thousands of students and families looking to escape the prison of low-performing public schools. Politicians of both parties should wake up and realize that school choice benefits everyone, except perhaps the teachers unions who are stuffing those same politicians’ campaign coffers. Sooner or later, even they will realize that doing what’s best for the children is the winning political decision.