When private and religious schools meet their state’s stringent educational standards, they frequently offer an educational experience superior in quality to public schools and provide a way for parents to express their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion, extending their faith’s tradition, while knowing their children will be educated in math, science, English, and history. This is why Protect The 1st sees school choice as empowering parents and strengthening both education and a First Amendment society.
States are warming up to this view, though two states are wavering because of strong opposition from politicians in both parties.
North Carolina has recently become embroiled in a bitter political fight over school choice between that state’s governor and the general assembly. The governor has declared his opposition to school choice legislation recently passed by the legislature. If the measure is sent to the governor’s desk as a standalone bill, it appears the legislature has the upper hand with a veto-proof majority.
In Texas, there are fewer political fireworks, but a handful of rural Republican legislators have nevertheless so far managed to keep school choice from happening in the Lone Star State. Economist Stephen Moore recently noted that the districts these recalcitrant Republican legislators represent have abysmal levels of student performance at or above grade level. Moreover, the Texas school choice bill would direct more dollars per student for rural districts.
On the plus side, when Gov. Kevin Stitt signs school choice into law, Oklahoma will have a refundable tax credit for families to put toward private school tuition. This new law, the Oklahoma Parental Choice Act, will also have a common feature of recent school choice bills – it boosts spending for public schools and teacher pay.
“We’re excited for what it does for every student, every teacher and school and parent in the state, regardless of what their personal choice is in terms of educating that child,” House Speaker Charles McCall told local media.
This year has seen enactments of major expansions of school choice in Indiana (available to 97 percent of K-12 students), Montana, and South Carolina. Four states – Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and Utah – enacted school choice programs open to all K-12 students, following the trailblazing path of Arizona and West Virginia.
These states include language ensuring that private schools must meet state minimum education standards to be eligible to receive funding. Such a move ensures that states can chart their own course with respect to curricular standards that private schools must meet to receive state support, while also providing students and families the resources they need to obtain a quality education.
The ability to educate one’s children in the best schools available and according to one’s values or religion should be afforded to every American family. Since funding will now be opened up to a broader array of private schools, many more parents won’t have to choose between sacrificing educational quality for their children or sacrificing their family savings.
Perhaps Oklahoma’s addition to the national school choice juggernaut will prompt North Carolina and Texas to overcome political opposition to join a movement that is sweeping the nation.