The debate over what is arguably the most important issue of the legislative session is in full swing. The Senate Education Committee has debated a handful of bills that to varying degrees would give parents greater control over their child’s education.
While each bill would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo, the key piece is making sure that any school choice program be “universal,” meaning every parent regardless of their situation should be eligible to participate. Think of it as No Parent Left Behind.
Some have argued for “carving out” the parents of private school kids, homeschoolers, students in high-performing schools, or those in rural communities. But this ignores some basic truths. For starters, not every kid that goes to private school or is homeschooled is wealthy. Some parents make tremendous sacrifices to afford tuition or to forego an income altogether to homeschool. There are also some private schools that specifically cater to low-income communities.
Second, not every kid at a good school is succeeding. Many still have challenges or just aren’t interested in being prepped to go to a four-year college. Parents shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to give their kids new and better options just because their school isn’t failing.
And finally, we know that some parents, particularly in rural areas, love their schools and aren’t looking to move their kids. But our survey research shows that even if parents are satisfied with their schools, they still want options like workforce development and technical training programs. With a universal ESA, those parents would have the money to send their kid to learn a trade or participate in an apprenticeship.
The bottom line is that every parent – every parent – deserves to have the opportunity to do what they think is best for their kid regardless of their situation. There’s still a long way to go in the legislative process and there’s still tremendous hope policymakers will do the right thing for all families.