WASHINGTON – Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) today introduced the Children Have Opportunities in Classrooms Everywhere Act, or CHOICE Act, a bill to allow low-income families with children in grades K-12 to use federal education funds for educational options that best fit their needs.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, was designed to create opportunities for low-income students by providing funding that would increase “quality and equality” in education and is the main source of federal aid for K-12 education. However, ESEA dollars go through a formulaic maze that siphons off money to bureaucracy and administrative costs, without any consideration for children’s individual needs, parental input, and accountability for schools. Decades’ worth of evidence has shown that the ESEA has made little to no progress in improving the academic outcomes or opportunities for the low-income children it’s intended to serve.
The CHOICE Act would allow low-income families with children in grades K-12 to apply for federal education funds that they can choose to put towards the public school in which their children are enrolled, or towards an education savings account, known as 529 account. Additionally, it would expand the qualified expenses for 529 accounts so that they could go towards private school tuition, virtual learning, tutoring, homeschooling curriculums, therapy services, and more.
“I spent the past 40 years traveling to high schools around the country and talking to students about their next steps after graduation,” said Sen. Tuberville.“A four year college is not for everyone, but an opportunity is. The CHOICE Act provides students with an opportunity, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, by giving parents a choice in what educational opportunities and programs will best prepare their student for a life and career after K-12 schooling. By letting parents and students decide what is best for them, our education system is working the way it should be – equipping students with skills to succeed.”
“For far too long, our K-12 funds have gone towards a bureaucratic system that excludes parents and leaves low-income students behind,” said Sen. Lee.“This bill will ensure that our K-12 funds go directly to families and students, so that they are empowered to choose options that best meet their unique needs.”
Outside organizations supporting the bill include the American Federation for Children and Heritage Action for America.
“The pandemic illustrated the critical problem with K-12 education in America – putting the interests of the teachers’ unions ahead of individual families and students. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution. This bill directly empowers lower income families by funding students, not systems. We thank Sen. Lee for introducing this bill.”
– John Schilling, President, the American Federation for Children
“For years, many working-class families have had no choice but to send their children to whatever public school they have been zoned for, regardless of the quality of education it provides. The past year has magnified this problem, as the Biden Administration and other Democrats have refused to open schools, choosing to follow teachers unions instead of science, preventing millions of students from returning to school in person. Senator Lee’s CHOICE Act puts these students first by giving them the opportunity to decide what education option works best for them.”
– Garrett Bess, Vice President of Government Relations and Communications, Heritage Action for America