Last week, United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the introduction of legislation in Congress by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne to create federal Education Freedom Scholarships. The scholarships would allow individuals and businesses to make a financial contribution to a state nonprofit that would award these dollars to students for tuition or other expenses to fund their elementary or secondary school education. Those making contributions to these nonprofit entities would receive a dollar for dollar reduction in their federal tax obligation.
As stated in USA today, Ms. DeVos, Mr. Cruz, and Mr. Byrne explain the rationale behind their proposed law entitled the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act.
“We recognize that each student is unique and deserves an education personalized for them. Scholarships could help students access a whole menu of opportunities, including dual enrollment, special education services, advanced or elective courses not available in their assigned school buildings, transportation to out-of-zone opportunities, among many others. All Americans need to be equipped for successful careers, and vital workforce preparation is in high demand. That’s why students could use scholarships to access career and technical education and apprenticeships, as well.”
They also explain in their commentary why a new approach is necessary regarding the education of our children:
“Today, too many young Americans are denied those opportunities. The numbers tell a grave story. We’re 24th in reading, 25th in science and 40th in math when compared with the rest of the world.
That’s not because our students aren’t capable of being No. 1. They are. But our government’s antiquated approach to education limits their ability to achieve their true potential.
A series of administrations on both sides of the aisle have tried to fill in the blank with more money and more control, each time expecting a different result.”
The plan is exactly the one that was promoted by Joseph Overton, a friend who was the senior vice-president at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy before he died in a plane crash in 2003. It comes a few days after the birthday of Joseph E. Robert, Jr., the Washington D.C. area businessman and philanthropist who was a major proponent of the nation’s capital’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Mr. Robert passed away at the end of 2011. The OSP, since being establishment by Congress in 2009, has provided scholarships to private schools for kids living in poverty in the nation’s capital.
The main driver behind the act is freedom, which is what has led to all of the major accomplishments in this world. The authors’ write:
“The key element of the proposal is freedom for all involved. Eligible students, families, teachers and schools, as determined by their states — all can participate at will and any can elect not to participate if that’s the better choice for them. This is what freedom is all about.”