by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Senators Tim Scott (R., S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) have teamed up to offer a bill that would redirect some coronavirus-relief funding to school-choice programs, so families could continue sending their children to the schools that are best for them even during the pandemic and recession.
The School Choice Now Act — which has the support of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — would repurpose some of the emergency education-relief funding currently included in the CARES Act, which already provides aid to state education departments and local school districts. Under the bill, 10 percent of that funding would go to grants that states could use to fund scholarship organizations, which offer families “direct educational assistance” to cover private-school tuition or other educational expenses, such as the costs of homeschooling.
The aid would be available to states with tax-credit scholarship programs as well as to states without them. The former would be required to allot subgrants to scholarship groups within the first 30 days of receiving federal aid, whereas the latter would have 60 days to do so. After receiving those subgrants, scholarship organizations would be required to use 95 percent of the funding to offer scholarships to qualifying elementary- and secondary-school students.
In addition to these temporary funding measures to address the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the bill would establish a permanent, federal tax-credit scholarship program, a proposal that the Trump administration — DeVos in particular — has been backing for years. The program would offer federal taxpayers dollar-for-dollar tax credits for any contributions they make to scholarship-granting organizations, with a cap of $5 billion per year on the program.
The proposal is an admirable effort to address a crisis that’s unfolding across the country in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. …