Today, Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the House companion bill to Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education, also called the CHOICE Act. The bill has yet to be assigned a bill number or posted on www.thomas.gov but the legislation will mirror the Senate version (S. 1909), which was introduced earlier this year. Both versions of the CHOICE Act will funnel over $11 billion of taxpayer money to private schools. NASSP has opposed this bill and has a long standing position statement on private school vouchers. We are especially concerned with the CHOICE Act as it would shift scarce public funds for special education to private institutions which are not bound by federal and state laws and regulations on staffing, programming and personalization for students with disabilities.
Furthermore, under current law, if a school district determines through the evaluation and IEP process that it cannot adequately provide the necessary services for a student with disabilities in its school system, then that child could be placed by the IEP team in a private school, with all the protections of IDEA and at no cost to the student’s family. In contrast, when a student attends a private school using a voucher, the parent must pay all tuition and fees above the costs covered by the voucher—the disparity between the voucher amount and the actual cost of the student’s education is usually significant and cost prohibitive for most parents.
The CHOICE Act would also expand private school vouchers by creating a pilot school choice program for students living on military bases which would reduce or even eliminate funding for Impact Aid. Finally, the bill would greatly increase the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for students living in the District of Columbia, which has not proven effective through numerous studies.
Rep. Rokita also spoke about the legislation today and the role of the federal government in education at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event. You can view his remarks here.
NASSP also opposes the Scholarship for Kids Act (S. 1968/H.R. 4000), another private school voucher bill which was introduced earlier this year. This legislation would create a scholarship program for eligible low-income children to use at any state-approved public or private school they attend or for supplemental educational services. However, in order to pay for the $24 billion Scholarship for Kids program, the bill would dismantle a vast majority of currently authorized federal education programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that we know our members strongly support, such as literacy education, career and technical education, and school leadership. Additionally, 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.
JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP’s Executive Director released the following statement in January when the Senate versions of the CHOICE Act and the Scholarship for Kids Act were introduced, “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.” She also stated, “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.”
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 CHOICE Act and the Scholarship for Kids Act. If you haven’t already contacted your members of Congress to share your thoughts on these bills, visit the Principal’s Legislative Action Center (PLAC) to send a letter today!