As part of National School Choice Week in late-January, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) have introduced two bills to greatly increase federal funding for private school vouchers at the expense of our nation’s public schools.
“NASSP have long stated its opposition to private school vouchers, which drain money away from public schools, reduce accountability in the education system, and ultimately harm public schools where the vast majority of our nation’s youth receive their education,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “We are especially dismayed that the proposals would eliminate federal education programs that we know are important to school leaders, such as literacy education and career and technical education, and would redirect funding for special education programs and services away from public schools.”
The Scholarship for Kids Act (S. 1968) would authorize nearly $24 billion (41% of federal education funding) for a Scholarship for Kids program. Eligible low-income children would be able to use the grant scholarships at any state-approved public or private school they attend or for supplemental educational services. According to Sen. Alexander, 11 million students would be eligible for the scholarships and would be worth approximately $2,100 per student.
In order to pay for the Scholarship for Kids program, the bill would consolidate more than 80 federal education programs previously allocated for programs under Title I of ESEA, including the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, the High School Graduation Initiative, the School Leadership program, the Enhancing Education through Technology program, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. States participating in the program would be relieved of having to comply with all requirements of ESEA except for provisions related to challenging academic standards and related assessments.
“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone has the same starting line,” said Sen. Alexander at an event in Washington, DC. “During this week celebrating school choice, there would be no better way to help children move up from the back of the line than by allowing states to use federal dollars to create 11 million new opportunities to choose a better school.”
The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education (CHOICE) Act (S. 1909) takes a three-pronged approach to increasing private school vouchers. First, the bill would provide funds to states for disability school choice programs that would allow students with disabilities to use funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at any school of their choice. The legislation would also create a pilot school choice program for students living on military bases. Finally, the bill would greatly expand the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for students living in the District of Columbia.
“As someone who grew up poor and nearly failed out of high school, I know the importance of empowering parents and teachers to make a difference in a child’s life,” Sen. Scott said in a press release. “Kids who succeed in the classroom have a better chance of succeeding later in life. Education is the cornerstone of success, and the CHOICE Act is a great first step towards ensuring more kids across our nation have access to a great one.”
All students deserve the opportunity to attend great schools and federal resources should help support schools and students who need it the most. For this reason, NASSP encourages all principals and assistant principals to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose the Scholarship for Kids Act and the CHOICE Act. Visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) to find the contact information for your legislators and send a letter today!