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.
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.
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.
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.
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.