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New School Choice Bill Targets Military Families, Special-Needs Students

By Arianna Prothero. Cross-posted from the Charters & Choice blog.

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., is introducing a bill Thursday that, in part, aims to increase school-choice programs for students in military families and students with disabilities.

The CHOICE Act (Creating Hope and Opportunities for Individuals and Communities through Education) would also make some tweaks to the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which gives need-based scholarships to District of Columbia children to attend private schools.

Rokita is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. U.S. Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced the Senate companion bill earlier this year.

Rokita said in a statement that the legislation would benefit the children of servicemen and women who may not have access to quality schools on a base, "by ensuring funding directly benefits and follows the student, not an education bureaucracy if it is failing them."

Under the bill, pilot programs on at least five domestic bases would give students living there up to $8,000 scholarships for their elementary education or $12,000 for high school.

The measure would also provide startup money to school-choice programs for students with disabilities. The funds are meant to incentivize states to create these kinds of programs, or expand them if the state already has such a program.

The House passed another school-choice bill earlier this month which aimed to bolster successful charter schools in a variety of ways, such as helping developers open new schools, giving students in special education preference in charter lotteries, and authorizing more funding for charters.

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