On June 30, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Montana’s tax credit scholarship program allows a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to an organization that provides private school scholarships. The state’s supreme court invalidated the program because of a provision of the state constitution prohibiting the use of government funds for religious schools. The United States Supreme Court reserved that decision on the grounds that the state constitutional provision in question violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. While the ruling does not require states to operate private school voucher programs, it does require that all states that do operate such programs make them available to religious as well as secular schools. The Arc is disappointed in this ruling because it is likely to lead to an increase in public funding for schools that are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. See The Arc’s statement.
On April 10, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing titled “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education.” The sole witness was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Secretary DeVos faced numerous questions related to proposed program cuts; the administration’s Freedom scholarship tax credit proposal, which could be used for private schools that do not have to adhere to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; loan servicing for post-secondary education; the decision to delay the significant disproportionality rule on disability identification, placement, and discipline by race/ethnicity; among other controversial issues. Visit the Committee website to review opening statements and testimony and view archived video of the hearing.
On March 7, Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act of 2019 (S.695). This bill would create “Military Education Savings Accounts” that parents serving in the military could use for private school or other education expenses for their children. The Arc opposes this bill because it directs public funds to private schools that are not required to follow the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act. View The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On February 28, Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced bills (H.R.1434 and S.634) to provide a 100% federal tax credit for donations to organizations that provide scholarships for private schools. The Arc opposes this bill because schools accepting scholarships indirectly supported by the tax credit are not required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act. See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On January 16, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and 10 other Senators introduced the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act (CHOICE) Act. The CHOICE Act amends the Scholarship for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which provides private school vouchers for low-income students in the District of Columbia; allows Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds to follow a student parentally placed in a private school using a voucher or tax credit scholarship; and establishes a pilot program for providing school vouchers to military families. The Arc opposes these programs because schools participating in them are not required to follow the IDEA or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act. See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On January 24, Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Scholarship for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which provides private school vouchers for low-income students in the District of Columbia. The Arc opposes the program because schools participating in the program are not required to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the accountability provisions under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
Two bills were introduced on January 3 to fund private school education at the federal level. The first, S.5, provides a federal tax credit for private school tuition. The second, H.R. 69, allows parents to take federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I funding to a public or private school of their choice. The Arc opposes these bills as they do not maintain the accountability and civil rights protections that students with disabilities have in public schools. See The Arc’s position statement on education, including school choice.
On November 15, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released two reports on school choice. The first report relates to charter schools. This report highlights many concerns with the charter school system, including the disproportionately low percentage of enrollees who have disabilities, frequent non-compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), harsh codes of conduct, increased racial segregation, and the negative impact on students remaining in the traditional public school system. The report makes several recommendations to policy-makers to remedy these concerns. The second report relates to private school choice. This report recommends that schools receiving voucher funds be required to follow the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and accountability requirements that currently apply to public schools.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education has issued a report grading states on their commitment to public education. The report assesses privatization programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia with the goal of not only highlighting the benefits of a public school education, but comparing the accountability, transparency and civil rights protections offered students in the public school setting versus the private school setting. States are rated on the extent to which they have instituted policies and practices that lead toward fewer democratic opportunities and more privatization, as well as the guardrails they have (or have not) put into place to protect the rights of students, communities, and taxpayers. The report also recommends improving public schools by reducing class sizes, improving teacher training and recruitment, supporting pre-K education, and increasing parental involvement. See the report here.