The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, introduced both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, is a novel bill that would offer school choice opportunities to parents and children without defunding public schools. Even so, it faces intense opposition not just from Democratic lawmakers, but also from public school officials. The National Association of Secondary School Principals claims the plan “insults” them.
The bill would allow businesses and individuals to make donations to a scholarship fund that would be managed by the states rather than the federal government. The federal government would give a dollar for dollar tax deduction for the money donated to the scholarship funds. The bill mandates that at least 90% of the scholarship fund would be given to students to cover their educational costs, enabling those who live in areas with subpar public schools to study at the private or charter school of their choice. Alternatively, scholarship funds could be used for apprenticeships, homeschooling, special education or public virtual schooling.
In short, the scholarship fund would open up numerous opportunities that would make it possible for each recipient to receive the education that best suits his or her exact needs.
Given the current condition of America’s public education system, it is not hard to see that there is a need for viable alternatives to public schools. The U.S. federal government spends more money on education than other nation. However, students in countries ranging from Finland to Singapore to Estonia are significantly ahead of their American counterparts. As the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress reports, more than half of all American fourth to eighth grade students are proficient in reading and math; of these, about 30% score below a basic level. Astonishingly, fewer than 30% of young people today would be eligible to serve in the military due to having an inadequate education.
Unfortunately, improving education has taken a backseat to partisan bickering. The fact that the proposals are coming from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos make them anathema to Democrats. The National Association of Secondary School Principals claims the new scholarship fund would make it hard for the public school system to find teachers, but did not provide any evidence to back up its claim. However, an important point that most opponents of the new bill are failing to consider is that it is already been implemented at the state level in about eighteen states across the nation. Alabama, Virginia, New Hampshire and Arizona are just some of the many states that offer their own scholarship tax credits to help disabled and low-income students.
While the term “school choice” has become highly politicized, its popularity isn’t going away anytime soon. A recent survey found that an overwhelming majority of Americans want the freedom to choose where to send their children to school. Lawmakers have a mandate to deliver on this.
~ Liberty Planet