Government Education Monopoly Busted…Just Not in Louisiana
There’s big news for parents of school-age kids. Finally, the chance for all families to choose the school that best fits their child, whether that’s a public school, a private school, homeschool, or a customized or hybrid program. Too bad Louisiana’s children aren’t getting this opportunity. If only our governor would prioritize kids over status quo school systems and teachers’ unions, Louisiana families might also be able to choose from among multiple school options instead of having to send their child to a government-assigned school that may or may not provide what they need.
Last week, the Arizona legislature passed the most expansive school choice legislation in the nation, giving parents and legal guardians of all children access to roughly $7,000 in education savings accounts (ESAs) to fund their elementary and secondary education needs. ESAs can be used to pay for tuition, instructional materials, tutoring, and special education services and therapies. The new law also permits ESAs to fund transportation and technology needed to support student learning. The Arizona Daily Independent News Network reported, “Arizona Legislature Passes Bill To Fund Students, Not Systems.” Governor Doug Ducey, who led the charge earlier this year by asking lawmakers to pass the legislation, indicated he will sign the bill.
Arizona was the first state to pass an ESA program several years ago and will now extend the program to 1.1 million students statewide.
Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, summed it up well: “These Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will truly bust the government education monopoly. Children’s educational opportunities will no longer be blighted by where they live. This long-overdue revolution was given immense impetus by the destructive arrogance of teachers’ unions and school bureaucracies as well as by parental revulsion over school curriculums revealed by the Covid-19 lockdowns.”
Meanwhile in Louisiana, lawmakers who made school choice a priority this session passed two education savings account bills that would have authorized ESAs for children with disabilities and children who are struggling to learn how to read. Louisiana is in a crisis, with half of its young elementary school children below grade level in reading. Even with these two bills being narrowly tailored to groups of students with special needs and circumstances, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed them, citing local public school districts would be impacted by giving parents multiple school options. “[These bills] would potentially divert Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funds for students to attend non-public schools….I believe we should do everything we can as a state to support public education.”
Supporters of the Louisiana ESA bills called the Governor’s actions on them “disgraceful,” and they’re absolutely right. Louisiana’s kids and their families deserve nothing less; in fact, given our state’s abysmal educational rankings, one could argue they need ESAs even more urgently. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait until Louisiana elects a governor who cares more about their needs than protecting the status quo.