School Choice Picks Up Steam After Pandemic Closures
Among the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic we can probably count Americans’ faith in government-dominated education. Through months of closures, teachers union obstinacy, and simple failure to deliver value to children, public schools have driven many families to look elsewhere for the care and feeding of young minds. The result has been rising support for school choice and a flurry of state-level measures to help parents and children pick learning models that suit them—measures that will remain long after the virus is gone.
“The Arkansas House on Wednesday narrowly approved a $2 million state income tax credit program to fund private school scholarships for needy students, sending the bill to Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported on April 22. Hutchinson supports the measure, so its approval is basically guaranteed. The bill creates dollar-for-dollar income tax credits, up to a modest $2 million cap for the whole state, for donors to organizations that provide scholarships to pay for private school tuition. To qualify for those scholarships, students must have a family income equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $53,000 a year for a household with four people).
Even as Arkansas lawmakers passed the tuition tax credit plan, their counterparts in Florida approved a proposal to consolidate scholarship programs and expand eligibility to include more families.
“The Florida House voted to expand the state’s school voucher programs Wednesday, opening up scholarships created to help children living in poverty to youngsters from families earning nearly $100,000 a year,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
North Carolina’s House voted to expand the state’s voucher program earlier this month; the measure is now in the Senate. Elected officials in Kentucky and West Virginia beat them to the punch, approving plans to let education dollars follow children to their chosen education options, rather than just funneling them to government institutions. To further illustrate where the momentum lies, West Virginia also expanded authorization for charter schools, while Kentucky lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto to implement their plan. And those states are far from the full story of school choice progress.
The reason isn’t difficult to discern. Public schools completely dropped the ball during the pandemic, leaving kids languishing and parents frustrated and angry.
“The pandemic has been a revelation for many Americans about union control of public schools that refuse to reopen,” The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board pointed out last month, before the most recent developments. “Nearly 50 school-choice bills have been introduced this year in 30 states. It’s a testament to how school shut
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