Amid a barrage of attacks on school choice by the nation’s teachers unions, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican lawmakers are proposing a nationwide school choice tax credit to open up more educational options for American families.
DeVos announced the proposal to create $5 billion a year in federal tax credits for donations made to programs offering scholarships to students for private school, apprenticeships and other school choice alternatives to public education, the Associated Press reports.
The “historic investment in America’s students is dubbed the “Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act.”
“What’s missing in education today is at the core of what makes America truly great: Freedom,” DeVos said. “Kids should be free to learn where and how it works for them.”
DeVos has been a leading proponent of school choice for decades, a key credential that undoubtedly gained her favor with President Trump, who has touted school choice as a critical component to improving education in America, NPR reports.
Legislation for the tax credits is backed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama, though odds of getting the bill through the Democrat controlled House are slim to none. The Democrat Party relies heavily on the political largess of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers unions and opponents of school choice.
At the heart of the issue is a union monopoly on public education that’s contributed to skyrocketing expenses and lackluster academic results convincing many parents to pursue something better. Non-unionized charter schools, private schools, online schools and other educational options threaten the union monopoly by forcing traditional public schools to improve to compete for students, and unions are losing the battle.
Sen. Patty Murray, senior Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, told the AP DeVos and parents praying for better educational options shouldn’t hold their breath, as she expects the proposed federal tax credit scholarships will be “dead on arrival.”
“Secretary DeVos keeps pushing her anti-public school agenda despite a clear lack of support from parents, students, teachers, and even within her own party,” Murray said in a prepared statement. “Congress has repeatedly rejected her privatization efforts, and she should expect nothing less here.”
The school choice bill also face headwinds with a public education establishment that depend on tax money for its livelihood. Union bosses and public school administrators often frame school choice efforts, and tax credit scholarships in particular, as an “attack on public education,” according to an editorial by DeVos, Cruz and Byrne published by USA Today on Thursday.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” according to the op-ed. “This program won’t take a single cent from local school teachers or public school students. …
“Our proposal only requires on thing: Students and parents must be empowered to make decisions. American’s families – not entrenched special interest groups – should decide how education dollars are spent for their own children.”
Ultimately, they argued, the purpose of education in America isn’t to preserve past practices or a public system that continues to fail millions of students every year.
“Because education isn’t about school systems,” DeVos, Cruz and Byrne argued. “It is about school children.
“Our country needs students to be freed to pursue the education that will unlock their potential and unleash their creativity so they – and the generations after – can achieve unlimited success. And no child should have to wait for another generation of adults to get this right,” they wrote.