How Education Freedom Scholarships Can Expand Private and Home Education Options

Problem:

  • American education needs to evolve to leverage the unique learning styles and cultivate the talents of every child. At a time when students must develop the skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing world, nearly one-fourth of our 15-year-olds cannot read a basic, grade-level text, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
  • Parents are children’s first, primary, and most influential teachers. Yet, too often, only affluent, well-connected parents can choose their children’s learning environment. All families should be empowered to choose an education setting where their children can reach their full potential.
  • Consistent with our country’s rich diversity, families should be free to select the education setting whose mission, instructional approach, or faith values best match the student and family.

Demand:

  1. Today, over half a million families are participating in private school choice programs in 26 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and even more Americans support these programs.
    • The Harvard Kennedy School’s 2019 Education Next survey found support for private school choice programs continues to grow. The most popular form of school choice—tax credit scholarships for low-income students to attend a private school—was supported by 58% of respondents. An American Federation for Children survey shows support is even higher among minority and millennial voters.
  2. Yet, in many States, thousands of students are on tax credit scholarship waitlists.
    • In Florida, 14,000 students will be freed from scholarship waitlists following Governor DeSantis signing into law the Empowerment Scholarship Program.
    • However, in Pennsylvania, more than 50,000 students remain on scholarship waitlists following Governor Wolf vetoing a scholarship program expansion.
  3. The number and percentage of school-age students whose families choose home education has doubled in the past 15 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Solution:

  • The Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal creates a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for businesses and individuals who voluntarily donate to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs). Those SGOs provide scholarships to empower families to choose the right education option for their elementary and secondary students, which may be an independent or faith-based private school or a home education.
  • States, not the Federal Government, identify SGOs and determine how to structure scholarship programs, including eligible students, education providers, and education expenses.
  • EFS prohibits religious discrimination and protects parental rights in scholarship use.

States could empower families to use scholarships to pay for:

  • Tuition and fees at a private school, including independent and faith-based private schools;
  • Summer and after-school education programs offered by private schools;
  • Tutoring offered by private school teachers to public and private school students;
  • Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and honors courses;
  • Academic enrichment courses like art, music, or world languages;
  • Online courses offered by private schools and teachers to students, regardless of geography;
  • Special education and related services for students with disabilities or unique learning needs;
  • Remedial education services to assist students who are struggling academically;
  • Educational technology to enhance instruction and support student learning;
  • Internship, corporate work-study, and apprenticeship programs; and
  • Home education expenses, including curriculum and other instructional materials.

How Education Freedom Scholarships Can Expand Preschool Options

Expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities for preschool children

Problem:

  • The benefits of participating in high-quality early learning opportunities have been well documented, especially for vulnerable children and dual-language learners.
  • However, high-quality early learning opportunities are not available to all children and families and states struggle to fund opportunities.

Solution:

  • The Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) proposal creates a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.
  • With EFS, states can seize the opportunity to empower families with preschool age children to access high-quality early learning opportunities, while relieving some of the financial pressure many families experience.

How EFS Can Expand Early Learning and Preschool Options:

  • EFS can be used for preschool age children if the State includes preschool or prekindergarten in its definition of elementary education.
  • States can design their programs to complement and expand existing public and private preschool programs and services. Scholarships can be focused, for instance, on expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities and programs.
  • The scholarships could cover allowable education expenses including, but not limited to:
    • Tuition and fees at a preschool of a family’s choice;
    • Transportation to a preschool provider;
    • Homeschool, cooperative or community-based preschool education expenses, including specialized preschool curriculum and educational materials;
    • Programs and services that support transition to kindergarten; and
    • Programs and services that complement and expand existing special education programs and services for preschool children with disabilities, including access to high-quality inclusive programs.

Looking Forward:

  • High-quality early childhood interventions have positive effects on test scores. Importantly, positive effects are also sustained in the long-term, improving high school graduation, years of education completed, and earnings, and reducing crime and teen pregnancy according to a report recently published by the Society for Research in Child Development.
  • Empowering preschool children with expanded access to high-quality early learning opportunities through Education Freedom Scholarships can help provide all children the foundation to succeed in school, work, and life.

DeVos touts rising support for school choice, charter schools as families seek ‘more control’

By: Valerie Richardson
The Washington Times
8/21/2019
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a huge proponent of school choice, and it turns out she’s not alone. An Education Next survey released Tuesday found rising support for charter schools, taxpayer-funded vouchers, and tax credits for private-school vouchers, programs aimed at expanding options for parents looking beyond traditional public schools. Ms. DeVos said the survey results show that “American families want more control and more options when it comes to education,” and put in a plug for her Education Freedom Scholarships proposal.

Public Support Grows for Higher Teacher Pay and Expanded School Choice

By: Michael B. Henderson, David Houston, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West
Education Next
8/20/2019
With the 2020 presidential election campaign now underway, education-policy proposals previously at the edge of the political debate are entering the mainstream. On the Republican side, the Trump administration has intensified its campaign for school choice. U.S. education secretary Betsy DeVos is asking Congress to enact $5 billion in tax credits annually to encourage donations to state-approved organizations providing scholarships that, if the state allows, could be used to attend private schools.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits the Upstate, pushes for Education Reform Scholarships

By: Renee Wunderlich
WYFF4
7/18/2019
TAYLORS, S.C. — U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, visited Taylors on Thursday afternoon to promote Education Freedom Scholarships. She, along with Gov. Henry McMaster and state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, held a roundtable discussion at Hidden Treasures Christian School about school choice.

Perspective: Classroom Disruption — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shares her vision of ‘education freedom’ with The Gazette

By: Wayne Laugesen
The Colorado Springs Gazette
7/7/2019
“Freedom.” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos cites the principle routinely when explaining her vision for disrupting the educational establishment. DeVos wants more freedom for kids enduring economic and racial segregation. She wants freedom from stigmas that favor white-collar jobs over blue-collar jobs. Freedom of religion. Freedom to learn in the manner that works best for individuals from limitless walks of life. DeVos envisions an educational landscape that forgets no child, strands none in schools that do not perform and treats students with dignity — whether they’re headed for Harvard, trade school or a job at the market down the street.

74 Interview: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Freedom Scholarships, Why Parents Deserve More School Options & the ‘Noisy Status Quo-Protecting Cabal’ Fighting Her Agenda

By: Esmeralda Fabián Romero and Laura Greanias
The 74 Million
6/19/2019
During a recent trip to California en route to a school in San Diego, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sat down for a detailed interview about her education philosophy, policy priorities and top critics. Among her more noteworthy insights, DeVos talked about why she believes she’s made progress toward her goals (because “we hear the opposition yelling louder than they have for a long time”), why she believes education freedom is inevitable and “is the answer to just about everything,” and why she remains wary of the “very noisy status-quo-protecting cabal that is keeping kids from having a better chance and a better future.”

How Education Freedom Scholarship Can Supplement Educational Choices

By: Scott Walker
Washington Times
4/11/2019
Now, the federal government is joining the fight. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is working with lawmakers on legislation to create Education Freedom Scholarships. The program will provide for a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs.