Photo: Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander by Susan Walsh / AP
-A permanent tax credit scholarship for students to attend schools of their choice could be included in the next COVID-19 relief package.
In July, the Congressional School Choice Caucus co-chair, Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina along with Senate Education Committee Chairman, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander introduced the School Choice Now Act.
The original aim of the legislation was to ensure all students would be able to return to their pre-pandemic educational institutions.
New legislation was added to the bill on Wednesday that would provide federal aid to assist families in paying for private school or homeschooling during the pandemic.
The School Choice Now Act has the support of the Trump administration and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has strongly advocated that the measure should be included in the next round of COVID-19 relief funding.
Of the $105 billion the Trump administration has requested for school reopening efforts, 10 percent or $10.5 billion is slated to go toward the school-choice initiative.
Senator Tim Scott stated, “I am a firm believer that a child’s zip code should not dictate his or her access to quality education nor define the child’s future. We must ensure that all children have access to the necessary resources and opportunities – education included – to live a successful life. I’m thankful for the support of Chairman Alexander and hope that my colleagues will support our nation’s most vulnerable youth by passing this legislation.”
Senator Lamar Alexander stated, “All parents, regardless of income or circumstance, should be able to decide which school best meets their child’s needs, whether that school is public or private. The School Choice Now Act provides scholarships to students to have the opportunity to return to the private school they attended before the pandemic—and gives other students a new opportunity to attend private school.”
“Children in all K-12 schools, public and private, have been affected by COVID-19,” Alexander continued. “Many schools are choosing not to reopen and many schools are failing to provide high-quality distance learning. The students who will suffer from this experience the most are the children from lower income families. This bill will give families more options for their children’s education at a time that school is more important than ever.”
In a statement of Wednesday, Alexander stated, ““Giving children more opportunity to choose their school is a real answer to inequality in America.”
If passed, the School Choice Now Act will:
• Provide one-time, emergency appropriations funding for scholarship-granting organizations in each state.
• Scholarship-granting organizations would be authorized to use the one-time funding to provide families with direct educational assistance, including private school tuition and home-schooling expenses
• Parents could choose the academic instruction that works best for their child
• Provide permanent dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits for contributions to scholarship-granting organizations, capped at $5 billion per year
• Allow states to create their own tax credit scholarship program that works for the unique needs of students in their state
• Prohibit federal control of education to ensure that all education providers may be able to participate without fear of federal control