Here's Where School Choice Bills Stand as Congress Restarts
School choice programs the Trump administration wants in next year's budget haven't gotten traction, at least with House lawmakers. (We still don't know yet how the Senate feels.) But those aren't the only choice plans Congress has the chance to consider. So how are these doing?
We checked in on the progress of a few, relatively high-profile pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill designed to expand school choice in various ways, and to various degrees. Here's a status report for each.
• H.R. 610, Choice in Education Act: This bill was introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in January. It would create vouchers using federal funds. It was introduced in the House education committee in January, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
We wrote about this legislation in March, after it attracted a lot of interest (and much of that fearful interest) from educators. King introduced similar legislation in 2016.
• S. 235, CHOICE Act: This bill was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in January. It has a narrower focus than King's bill. Scott's legislation would expand school choice for students with disabilities and children from military families. It would also expand the existing Disrrict of Columbia voucher program. Scott was one of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' biggest defenders during her confirmation process. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., introduced the CHOICE Act in the House.
Scott introduced the bill in the Senate education committee in January, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
• S. 148, Educational Opportunities Act: This bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in January. It aims to create a federal tax credit to support organizations offering private school scholarships. Rubio introduced similar legislation in recent years. (Rokita introduced companion legislation in the House.)
Tax credits are at the center of school choice advocates' hopes for having the federal government act on their behalf. There's also talk it could be included in a separate tax reform package. Rubio's bill was introduced in the Senate finance committee in January, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
• S. 1294, Native American Education Opportunity Act: This bill was introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. It would create a program for Native American tribes to distribute money to education savings accounts.
This bill passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in the last Congress. McCain's legislation was introduced in the Senate Indian affairs committee in June, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
• H.R. 1462, Ending Common Core and Expanding School Choice Act: This bill was introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. The bill would prohibit the federal government from promoting, requiring, or incentivizing the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in any way. It would also allow students to take Title I money and use it at the public or private school (as well as other educational service) of their choice. The Every Student Succeeds Act, it's worth noting, already places a prohibition on Washington with respect to states' adoption of standards.
Biggs introduced his legislation to the House education committee in March, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
• H.R. 2624, Military Child Educational Freedom Act: This bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. The legislation would allow members of the military to use Coverdell savings accounts for home-schooling activities.
Wilson's bill was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee in May, but lawmakers haven't acted on it since.
Photo: The Capitol in Washington, D.C., in January. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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