Government Watch / Politics

The Republican Party’s School Choice Revolution

AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan


After years of little state-level action on the school choice front, six states have now enacted universal school choice in rapid succession—and as a result, in a historically positive sign for the school choice movement, the fight for freedom in education is finally gaining momentum.

Republican state legislators in West Virginia launched the school choice revolution in 2021, when the Mountain State passed a landmark education savings account program which allows families to “use their education tax dollars for private school tuition, tutoring, educational therapy, or other educational expenses.” After legal challenges from the left, the legislation was ultimately ruled constitutional by the West Virginia Supreme Court last October, setting the stage for a school choice legislative blitz in a growing group of red and purple states.

GOP lawmakers kept the momentum going last summer when Arizona passed legislation to open the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account to all K-12 students statewide. The program allots $7,000 per year to students who choose not to attend public school, which can be used for education needs such as private school tuition, tutoring, or homeschooling.

“This is a monumental moment for all of Arizona’s students,” said then-Arizona Governor Doug Ducey upon signing the legislation. “Our kids will no longer be locked in underperforming schools. Today, we’re unlocking a whole new world of opportunity for them and their parents.”

Shortly after the passage of the Arizona bill, lawmakers in Iowa passed the Students First Act, which similarly makes state education funding available to K-12 students who choose not to attend public school.

Beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, the Iowa law establishes a three-year plan to enact universal school choice. It starts in the first year with “private school students with household incomes at or below 300% of the federal poverty level,” and ultimately expands to all K-12 students in the 2025-2026 school year.

“Public schools are the foundation of our education system and for most families they will continue to be the option of choice, but they aren’t the only choice,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. “For some families, a different path may be better for their children. With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school best suited for them.”

Utah and Arkansas have also followed suit. In January, Utah became the third state to join the universal school choice movement with its Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Act. And just this month, newly inaugurated Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas signed into law the LEARNS Act, which phases in a universal voucher program over a three-year period.

Similarly, legislators in Florida recently passed a landmark bill to universalize state-funded vouchers by way of removing income caps for eligibility. Beginning with low-income families, the bill will provide parents with $8,000 for educational needs. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law just this week, making Florida the sixth state—and the fourth state this year—to implement universal school choice.

Many of these legislative initiatives also include provisions to ban Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, and other forms of left-wing indoctrination in the classroom.

Fortunately, it appears this legislative momentum is just the start of the American school choice movement.

In an encouraging sign for parental rights advocates, a growing slate of other states—including Texas—are also gaining ground in the fight to provide educational freedom. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas is aggressively promoting SB 8, which would delegate $8,000 per student to assist with private school tuition.

As momentum for the school choice movement continues to build, former president and 2024 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has outlined a bold policy agenda to cement freedom of education at the federal level. For instance, he has called for a “parental bill of rights” that promotes curriculum transparency and universal school choice, as well as the implementation of “direct election” of school principals by parents. “If any principal is not getting the job done, the parents should be able to vote to fire them and select someone who will,” he said in a January policy video. “This will be the ultimate form of local control.”

Additionally, in a March speech in Davenport, Iowa, Trump called for a nationwide school choice program. “I’ve always been very, very strong on education,” he said. “I’ve seen what you’ve done here [in Iowa], and as president, I’ll fight to expand that right to every single state in America.”

These policy proposals indicate that Trump intends to build on his achievements for educational freedom during his first term in the White House. Notably, Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allowed parents to use up to $10,000 from an education savings account to pay for K-12 tuition costs at schools of their choice. “We’re fighting for school choice, which really is the civil rights [issue] of all time in this country,” Trump said in a June 2020 speech.

As the fight for freedom in education marches on, conservatives have many reasons to be hopeful about reforming our nation’s education system and ending the reign of political indoctrination in American classrooms. By every indication, the Republican Party’s school choice revolution is only just beginning.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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1 month ago

School Choice is the only way to save the current education system. Government -backed schools suck.

Rob citizenship
1 month ago

There needs to be some standard involved when it comes to education. It could be possible to have a system of education that would combine formal classroom education ( school attendance ) , home schooling, and self study. The self study, or independent study would need to be approved in some way , either through the study program itself, for example a correspondence course from an established school, or by a local education authority. Some system like this would work out fine , with certain adjustments , depending on location, schedules involved, goals intended to be reached. Just a personal note, I started grade school in 1956 , a few months later my parents purchased an encyclopedia , a set of 26 volumes , it was Nelson’s Encyclopedia, and I believe that I learned as much from , and on some topics more than what was being taught in school. Remember the education program Abraham Lincoln followed. So , a combination of formal classroom study, home schooling and independent research, or self study could be an alternative that would establish an new and improved outlook on education for all involved.

2 months ago

Sorry to rain on the parade but the US supreme court ruled in the late 1800’s that the govt must regulate tax subsidies to affirm those payments are being used “correctly”. The true road to educational freedom is to use a non-governmental entity or home school to educate your children. Hillsdale college had to spend about 100,000 dollars in legal fees to divest itself of govt. regulations when a student used govt. money to pay his/her tuition. Yes, its very costly and sacrificial for a family to do that. I put my four children and most of my 15 grandchildren through Christian education. Samuel Blumenfeld said it best decades ago; “when your house is on fire, the first thing you do is get your children out.” America is now feeling the real effects of being ‘burned’ by government education.

Sharon Ormsby
2 months ago

We’re trying hard to get school choice in Texas, whether it’s public, charter, or private. Psarents need to be involved.

Fred Noel
2 months ago

Teacher unions and school administrators don’t want freedom of chose. They’re happy just skating along and providing sub standard education and not being held accountable for poor performing schools.

Fred Noel
2 months ago

In Arizona Shady Katie Hobbes is trying to repeal this in Arizona. Our only hope is that kari Lake can get an honest Judge to hear her case. As Arizona’s Secretary of State Shady Katie Hobbes installed as our Governor through ballot harvesting and stuffing unsecured ballot drop boxes. Along with other election day “irregularities”

David Millikan
2 months ago

Excellent article.
There was school choice till the Clinton’s came along.

Karen Knowles
2 months ago

This was a good article. So glad we are finally moving in the right direction with school choice. Needed now more than ever in our history!

2 months ago

Georgia was so close to getting school choice passed this year but RINO’s in our house didn’t let that happen. Too many are so misinformed on what this will do for the kids in failing schools and believe everything the teachers unions say about protecting public schools. I’m so disappointed in our Georgia House cuz our governor was ready to sign a school choice bill this session but now we will have to try next year! UGH!

2 months ago

I do not like this proposal & think it is another way to make us dependent on govt. dollars. The public system was a great educational system for many decades so why not fix it instead of throwing it out the door. Besides graduating from High School with a diploma , all of the extra activities of public schools have been very important in providing a well rounded education.

2 months ago
Reply to  johnh

Obviously you don’t have any children attending public schools. They are run by powerful teachers unions who are interested in money not education. The teachers don’t make the money, the unions do. The private school at my church has a great sports program. They play local teams and were CIF champions in football last year. Private schools have very well rounded education and sports.

Rufus T Firefly
2 months ago
Reply to  johnh

Choice and competition are the way to fix it

Ann S
2 months ago

Let’s keep on revolutionizing education and stop the brainwashing indoctrination system we have now. Our country is being destroyed by the current curriculum.
School choice is the way to go will we save America.
Next we need to attack the universities and their left propagandizing professors.

Rex Walker
2 months ago

What a shame, Education in America has fallen so drastically. Schooling for the USA was started mostly by churches and the reader of choice, The Holy Bible, and for this old man the King James Version with old English as the language was hard reading. Never the less we learned the 3 R’s and a mother great tool the constitution of the United States. I even got credit for a semester of Poly Sci from Nebraska . Unfortunately I accepted and forgot until lately what I learned until what haas happened in the last few years. Most of my great grandkids are home schooled or in a private school.

2 months ago

And that is well and good and they are contemplating the RESTRIC ACT that will pretty much destroy all our freedom.

Steve Harmon
2 months ago

FINALLY!!!!! Our children will start getting an actual, complete, education minus the “Grooming” and “Indoctrination”!!!! God bless MY America!!!!!

2 months ago

Freedom of choice has ALWAYS been a staple choice in this country since beginning times by our founding fathers! HALLELUJAH people!

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
2 months ago

Thats great. That should be everywhere. Also after age 65, a senior should not have to pay school tax. Kyle L.

2 months ago

True. I’m 82, but I do believe educating a younger generation is a good way to spend my money. As a former teacher I’m wholly in favor of choice in education. Maybe an optional school tax if we can afford It?

2 months ago
Reply to  Melinda

I also believe that educating the younger generation is a good way to spend my tax money. But I am NOT happy about my tax dollars going to failed public schools, where the 3 R’s have been replaced by CRT, Gender Identity classes, and on and on. I see posts all the time by younger people who cannot spell or use correct grammar and punctuation. And what ever happened to shop classes, where you could get a head start on a trade? I would like to see a program where ALL people could allocate their tax dollars to fund non-public education, if they so wish. That would FORCE public schools to do a better job of TEACHING, and not indoctrinating our children and grandchildren. My wife and I have been paying school taxes our whole lives, but we have no children. I want my tax dollars to go towards funding schools that actually TEACH!

2 months ago

It is definitely time to break the hold that teachers unions have over public education. In my state the teachers unions are usually one of the top several donors to campaigns of Democrat candidates for office. Our legislature and governorship are in the hands of Democrats. So what the unions want, the government delivers. Inner-city schools do not educate. It doesn’t matter how much money the state doles out to them, test scores do not improve. Granted, many of the problems there are the result of social conditions that limit the amount of encouragement students get at home. That being said, where there is a solid family unit, the student is still restricted to the same non-performing school. We need to save the ones we can.

2 months ago

Can we talk about getting rid of the Department of Education on the Federal Level???? This is a LOCAL issue not federal

2 months ago
Reply to  Vonniequirk

Yes, indeed, that Dept. needs to be GONE!

anna hubert
2 months ago
Reply to  Vonniequirk

That would be the first step in the right direction and while at it perhaps it should be acknowledged that not all children are capable to perform on high school level It is pointless to push them through if at the end they are at the level of 7th grader if that

Fred Noel
2 months ago
Reply to  Vonniequirk

A lot of dirty money is funneled in and out of the Department of Education. When it was first created the their moto was no lobbyist left behind. Oh I’m sorry I misspoke, it was no child left behind.

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Expand Ed platform to

Voc Tech Ed
for schools

Steve Harmon
2 months ago

Teach them math, reading, history, biology and civics first.

2 months ago

It is a great thing that is long overdue. I believe Trump was a real advocate for this policy. Let us continue to push for positive outcomes for the children. Knowledge is power and understanding how to use it is a great asset.

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