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Legislation to Create Private School Choice Program Stalls in Oklahoma

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Legislation in Oklahoma to create a special kind of voucher program open to all public school students has come to a standstill for the session.

Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate say neither chamber will consider bills to create education savings accounts, according to the Associated Press.

Education savings accounts, or ESAs, allow parents to pull their children out of public school and use the state dollars earmarked for their child toward approved education expenses, such as home schooling materials or private school tuition.

This arrangement gives parents an unprecedented level of control over how public money is spent on educating their children.

Of the ESA programs that already exist in a handful of states, most are reserved for students with special needs.

So far the only state that has passed an ESA bill open to all public school students regardless of income or disability status is Nevada, where the program is currently on hold as its legality is challenged.

A bill to expand Arizona's ESA program, the first in the country, is currently stuck in a House committee.

School choice advocates had hoped that an ESA bill would clear the Oklahoma legislature this year after the state's supreme court ruled a separate voucher program for students with disabilities was constitutional even though it routes public money to religious schools, one of the primary arguments used against both voucher and ESA programs.

Although Republican legislative leaders said they want to give more educational choices to families, they were concerned the ESA program might hurt public schools financially, reports the Associated Press.

But the House Speaker and Senate Pro Tem promised to continue to build consensus around an ESA program.

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