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'The Year of School Choice': 8 States Introduce School Choice Legislation in January Alone

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January has appeared to be a tough month for proponents of school choice, with both the presidency and Senate officially being handed over to the Democratic Party — the majority of which has traditionally opposed giving parents a greater say in which schools their children attend.

President Donald Trump had made it clear that pursuing school choice would have been a primary goal for his administration if he had been elected to a second term.

Conversely, President-elect Joe Biden opposes public education funding being redirected to private or charter schools, according to PolitiFact.

Despite this, the school choice movement has made huge gains this month, with legislators in eight different states having already introduced school choice bills.

These states were New Hampshire, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington and Oregon.

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Additionally, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was met with applause during her Condition of the State address on Jan. 12 when she asked the state Legislature to craft a bill to give parents “the choice to send their children back to school full time.”

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us about education, it’s that our parents need choice. And it’s not just in-person versus virtual. Sometimes it’s about which school to attend altogether,” the Republican said, according to a transcript of her speech.

“School choice isn’t a zero-sum game,” Reynolds said. “It has the potential to raise the quality for all schools. And for those schools that do fall behind, it ensures our children don’t fall with them.

“Let’s work together to make sure every child receives a quality education, regardless of income, and no matter their ZIP Code.”

School choice expert Corey DeAngelis spoke with The Western Journal via email regarding the school choice movement’s wins and the implications thereof.

DeAngelis is the director of school choice at the Reason Foundation and executive director of the Educational Freedom Institute. He also serves as an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

“Although the new administration isn’t friendly to school choice, I’m optimistic that educational freedom will continue to expand where it matters the most — at the state level,” DeAngelis said. “About 92% of K-12 education funding comes from the state and local levels.”

One of the goals of school choice legislation is to break up the monopoly public schools hold over the education of lower-income students within their districts.

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In DeAngelis’ view, the sudden increase in school choice policy proposals is a direct result of “the public school monopoly’s response to Covid-19.”

While numerous private schools have been fighting to reopen, many of their public school counterparts have been fighting to remain closed.

“The main difference is one of incentives: One of these sectors gets your money regardless of whether they open their doors for business,” DeAngelis told The Western Journal.

Should public education funding go directly to the students?

Because of this, he believes families are waking up to the real problems within the education system.

“If a grocery store doesn’t reopen, families can take their money elsewhere. Families are realizing that if their school doesn’t reopen, they should similarly be able to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere,” DeAngelis said.

“In fact, families should be able to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere regardless of the reopening decision — education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for protecting a government monopoly,” he said. “We should fund students instead of systems.”

The evidence does, in fact, suggest that support for school choice has increased dramatically during the pandemic.

A national survey in August by RealClear Opinion Research showed support for school choice had increased by 10 percent among parents with children enrolled in public schools since April.

Additionally, a national survey from EdChoice published in December found 81 percent of the general public now supports setting up education savings accounts as a means of funding students directly.

“This realization just might be one of the only silver linings of the pandemic. 2021 could be the Year of School Choice,” DeAngelis told The Western Journal.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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