On March 23rd, the Florida Senate passed the latest universal school choice bill that would allow all Floridian parents, regardless of location and income bracket, to choose the best school system for their children. The bill already passed the Florida House and is now headed to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who has pledged to sign the measure into law. Florida will become the fourth state this year, and the sixth in the last two years, to enact universal school choice, joining Arkansas, Iowa, Utah, Arizona, and West Virginia.
Earlier this month, newly-elected Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders fulfilled her campaign promise by making universal school choice the law of the land in The Natural State. “We’ve seen how the status quo condemns Arkansans to a lifetime of poverty, we’re tired of sitting at the bottom of national education rankings” said Ms. Sanders. The new law creates a new school voucher program, raises minimum teacher salaries, and places restrictions on the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation, another hotly debated topic since Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act became law last year.
“What an amazing day for our children” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds after signing school choice into law on January 25th. “Public schools are the foundation of our educational system, and for most families, they’ll continue to be the option of choice. But they aren’t the only choice. And for some families, a different path may be better for their children.” Iowa’s new law will allow families to use over $7,500 per year in an education savings account towards tuition based schools.
Arizona’s school choice program, signed into law by former Governor Doug Ducey in July of last year, is so popular (77% approval among parents of school age children) that anti-school choice Governor Katie Hobbs may have to rethink her stance to secure her political future. As it stands, Republicans who narrowly control the state’s legislature have vowed to reject any budget from Governor Hobbs that rolls back universal school choice. The program allows Arizonians to use an education savings account totaling $7,000/year per student towards private schooling, homeschooling, and other education-related expenses.
Opponents of school choice, namely the powerful teachers unions, claim that allowing parents to remove their children from failing government schools will “bankrupt” the public schools, which begs the question: why? ESAs simply give parents the ability to choose which schools are right for their kids, public schools are more than welcome to compete for their business. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten went so far as to claim that school choice is “the way in which wars start” and compared school choice laws to “Russian war tactics.” Ms. Weingarten must not have received the memo that support for school choice nationally is soaring, and this support transcends political persuasion. 72% of Americans support these new laws, including 67% of independents, 68% of Democrats, and a whopping 82% of Republicans.
Several state legislatures are considering bills similar to the wildly popular new laws in Arizona and Iowa. Ohio passed a first-step school choice bill that expanded the state’s ESA program, and Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma are all considering their own school choice measures. Between cratering education statistics, and the willingness of the union bosses to shut down schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision in which the consequences will be felt for a generation, parents are ready for school choice. The train has left the station, there is nothing the Randi Weingartens of the world can do about it, and that is great news for the next generation of Americans.
Brady Leonard is a musician, political strategist, and podcaster based in Toledo, Ohio. The No Gimmicks Podcast airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm EST, wherever podcasts are found. Follow him on Twitter @bradyleonard