Administration Puts Public Education Directly in the Crosshairs
Last Tuesday during the State of the Union Address, America’s public schools took center stage. As part of the central theme for the evening, which was to “improve the status of every American,” the President said that millions of children were trapped in “failing government schools.” He remarked that the path to “providing a great education” to every citizen was for Congress to pass the Education Freedom and Opportunity Scholarships Act (H.1434/S.634). The bill would provide $5 billion in tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to state scholarship programs that provide vouchers to students for private school tuition. The initiative has not gained any attention in Congress due to criticism from both political sides of the school choice debate.
Yesterday, the Administration built upon its efforts to divert public funds away from public schools. In the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget for the Department of Education (ED), the Administration proposed a new, $5 billion federal tax credit for voluntary donations by individuals and businesses to State-designed scholarship programs for K-12 students. The Education Freedom Scholarships would support a diversion of public funds away from state and local budget to vouchers that can be used to pay tuition at a private school.
In a statement delivered upon the release of the ED budget, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos remarked that the proposal was about “returning power to those closest to students and to students themselves.” Unlike in previous Administration budget proposals, the FY 2021 budget did not include funding for public charter schools in its “school choice” agenda, significantly deepening the emphasis and priority to fund private schools with public money.
CEC has long opposed the use of public funds for private schools, viewing voucher programs as contrary to the best interest of students and their families, the public-school system, local communities and taxpayers. Further, CEC believes that voucher schemes contradict and undermine civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by stripping students with disabilities of access to the services and supports they are entitled to as well as the ability to exercise their rights under federal law.
To view CEC’s position statement on school vouchers, go here.