States

Choice Proponents Gearing Up for 2006 Legislatures

October 11, 2005 3 min read

School choice advocates from conservative-leaning state policy groups gathered here recently to compare notes and map out strategies for expanding families’ school options during the 2006 state legislative sessions.

Attendees at the State Policy Network’s annual conference, held Sept. 28-29, predicted that school choice bills will be introduced and debated in the coming year in Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina, and other states. The SPN, based in Richmond, Calif., links conservative state policy organizations across the country.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Missouri is among the states where new legislation is most likely to prevail in 2006, some here predicted.

“Of all the places [looking at school choice], I would say Missouri has the best chance of doing something this coming session,” said Brian McGrath, the director of programs and state relations for the Indianapolis-based Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, which promotes school choice.

Earlier this year, a proposal in the Missouri House called for a $40 million plan to create scholarships worth $3,800 to $4,000 each for students in St. Louis and Kansas City who met one of several requirements, including thresholds for low income. The plan didn’t make it to the floor, but Mr. McGrath said 2006 could be different.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican who has voiced support for school choice, recently convened a meeting of business leaders in St. Louis to build support for the plan, Mr. McGrath said.

The Friedman Foundation plans to take a group of Missouri business leaders to Milwaukee soon to examine that city’s voucher program, enacted by the Wisconsin legislature, which allows about 15,000 students from low-income families to attend private schools using state-funded vouchers worth about $6,000 each.

Building Support

Meanwhile, the battle over school choice in South Carolina also appears to be far from over.

Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, plans to make his proposed Put Parents in Charge Act one of his key legislative goals again this coming year, after the menu of voucher-style programs failed to pass the GOP-controlled legislature in 2005.

The legislation would have allowed up to $4,000 in reduced state income taxes for each child that a family enrolled in private schools or transferred to other public schools. It also would have allowed unlimited corporate-tax-credit scholarships, in which corporations get tax breaks for donations to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend private schools.

Gov. Sanford spoke at the conference here, but the press was not allowed to attend.

“The governor is still just as committed to school choice as he ever was,” said Randy Page, the executive director of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, an advocacy group based in Columbia, S.C. “The question is not whether we’re going to have school choice in South Carolina, but when.”

In Arizona, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano may call a special legislative session on several policy matter before the end of this year, during which the Republican-controlled legislature is expected to pass a bill adopting corporate-tax-credit scholarships in the state, school choice supporters here said. Arizona already has tax-credit scholarships that are funded by contributions from individuals.

Gov. Napolitano earlier this year vetoed a plan to provide $3,500 corporate-tax-credit scholarships, infuriating some Republican legislative leaders who believed the governor had agreed to sign the legislation, said Darcy A. Olsen, the president of the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute, a think tank that backs the plan.

In Utah, school choice proponents hope to build on last year’s legislative victory on special education scholarships.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican, signed a law providing $1.4 million in scholarships for students with disabilities whose parents wish to transfer them to private schools or other public schools. So far, the demand for the program has been weaker than anticipated. (“Utah Lacking Takers for New Special-Needs Voucher,” Oct. 5, 2005)

School choice activists in Utah hope to add a tax-credit-scholarship program next year, said M. Royce Van Tassell, the executive director of Education Excellence Utah, a Salt Lake City-based group that supported the new voucher program and is now pushing for the tax-credit scholarships.

A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Choice Proponents Gearing Up for 2006 Legislatures

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Who's Really Driving Critical Race Theory Legislation? An Investigation
Education Week reporting documents a complex web of individuals and conservative organizations supporting this far-reaching legislation.
15 min read
Conceptual image.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: DigitalVision Vectors and iStock/Getty)
States Download Full Text of the Texas Law Restricting Classroom Talk on Racism (HB 3979)
The Texas law restricts how teachers talk about controversial issues and limits the ways slavery and racism are taught.
1 min read
States How Will Bans on 'Divisive' Classroom Topics Be Enforced? Here's What 10 States Plan to Do
States will use lawsuits, penalties against districts, and disciplinary action against teachers to enforce "critical race theory" laws.
5 min read
In this April 15, 2021, photo, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during a bill signing in Phoenix. Ducey, on July 9, 2021, signed legislation banning government agencies from requiring training in critical race theory.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signs a law that will fine districts $5,000 each time a teacher makes a student feel uncomfortable about their race or gender.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
States Allow Critical Race Theory—and Opposing Views—in Kentucky Schools, Ed. Chief Says
Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass urged lawmakers to consider an alternative to banning critical race theory.
Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader
1 min read
The exterior of the Kentucky State Capitol is seen in Frankfort, Ky. on April 7, 2021.
The exterior of the Kentucky State Capitol is seen in Frankfort, Ky. on April 7, 2021.<br/>
Timothy D. Easley/AP