It was hard fought, but North Carolina recently became the 10th state to approve a universal school choice program. The effort began in 2013 with the creation of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarships. Now, the legislature has expanded the program to grant eligibility to all students in the state, though the amount of the scholarship declines for higher-income families. Families can use the assistance for the schooling of their choice, including private school tuition, instructional materials, and homeschooling expenses.
School closures during the pandemic forced education online and into homes across America. Some parents found a lot they didn’t like in what the public schools were teaching their kids. The Washington Stand reports that, since the pandemic, “1.2 million K-12 students have not returned to public school, with 26% choosing to homeschool.”
Legislatures in states across the nation are responding. Just since 2022, universal school choice has been enacted in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia. During the same period, 8 other states, have either expanded existing programs or created alternative school choice programs.
School choice has its opponents. When North Carolina’s legislature took up a choice bill, Governor Roy Cooper declared a “state of emergency,” warning “that the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education.” The issue led State Rep. Tricia Coddle to switch parties, from Democrat to Republican, and provide the majority needed to override the governor’s expected veto.
Governor Greg Abbott is calling the Texas legislature into special session this month with the express purpose of passing school choice for every child. During the regular session, the Texas Senate passed a bill, but the House did not. The governor promises consequences for Republicans who choose teachers’ unions over Texas parents. When Iowa governor Kim Reynolds faced a similar situation last year, she got involved in nine House primary races. In January, Iowa passed universal school choice.
Texas lawmakers: choose the easier way.