When the history books look back on 2023, the biggest American news story may be something that’s getting little attention right now: the school choice revolution.
This year, Iowa, Utah, and Arkansas have passed massive school choice bills, giving parents access to state education funding for their children and letting them decide if they want to use it at public or private schools.
- In Iowa, starting this fall, many families will be eligible to receive $7,598 per child to use toward the private school of their choice, as well as for other education expenses such as tutoring, textbooks, curricular materials, online courses, and special-needs therapy. In fall of 2025, this will be available to all parents of school-age children.
- In Utah, legislators passed a bill funding about $8,000 per student (assuming around 5,000 students enroll) toward private education, including private school tuition and homeschool expenses.
- In Arkansas, parents will be able to get 90% of the money the state is spending per pupil in public schools and use it toward the education of their choice. Like Iowa, the program will be gradually rolled out, but by the 2025-2026 school year, all school-aged children will be eligible.
These three states follow Arizona and West Virginia, where thousands of children are already receiving funds to be used toward the education of their parents’ choice. (Sadly, Arizona’s new Democrat governor, Katie Hobbs, is threatening the education savings account program, despite having attended a private school herself.)
Meanwhile, as state legislatures around the country meet, eight more states—Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Texas— are considering introducing or expanding access to education savings accounts.
We could potentially soon be in an America where students in about a quarter of states are liberated from the leftist propaganda of public schools.
Furthermore, there’s broad, bipartisan support for school choice. While the corporate media might sneer at Americans concerned about what their children are learning in public schools, it turns out interest in school choice unites Democrats and Republicans. Asked about giving “parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs,” 68% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans said they supported it, according to an American Federation for Children 2022 survey conducted by Real Clear Opinion Research.
The poll also found agreement among different races: 70% of blacks, 77% of Hispanics, 72% of whites, and 66% of Asians supported school choice.
No doubt Americans are motivated by a variety of reasons to seek out private schools. Some may want better academics. Others may want safer schools. Some may think that it shouldn’t just be in Florida where kids don’t have to hear about sex and gender issues in kindergarten.
Regardless, right now it is absolutely crucial that conservatives empower parents with school choice. Thanks to conservative journalists and activist parents, we’ve learned a lot about the indoctrination going on in some public schools on topics like critical race theory, American history, and LGBT issues.
But students today aren’t just facing indoctrination. They’re being given the ability to permanently change their lives—without their parents’ knowledge.
Earlier this month, Parents Defending Education identified over 6,000 schools where staff can choose to hide a child’s gender transition from his or her parents. About 3.3 million students attend those schools.
Nor are those schools just in deep blue states. My colleague Tony Kinnett has extensively reported on an Indiana school district’s policy that did not require staff to notify parents if a child was changing genders or names. The school counselor who confirmed the policy has been fired.
Consider the tragic story of Abby Martinez’s daughter Yaeli.
My colleague Virginia Allen reported last year that “Yeli attended an LGBTQ club at school that affirmed her questioning of her own gender. Her counselor at school also affirmed her decision to begin socially transitioning from female to male.”
“I don’t know if the schools, [if[ they [are] supposed to let us know what’s going on or not, but they never send me any note about telling me, ‘We need to talk about your daughter,’” Martinez told The Daily Signal. Instead, she found out from one of her other children who attended the same school as Yaeli.
Martinez tried to talk to her daughter about her gender identity. But Yaeli moved out at 16, and Martinez lost custody. “Because Martinez expressed concerns over her daughter’s ‘transitioning’ to a boy, Yaeli’s school psychologist recommended that she would be better off living away from home,” Allen wrote.
Ultimately, despite changing her name to a man’s name and taking cross-sex hormones, Yaeli, who had struggled with depression before her interest in gender transition, died by suicide at age 19.
Don’t all parents deserve the option to only place their children in schools where parents, not school bureaucrats, make the decisions about their child’s health care and gender identity?
When it comes to so many issues, from serving special needs students, to protecting students, to educating students, many, many public schools are failing today. Yet they still often have a monopoly on state education funds, no matter how dismal their records. That doesn’t make any sense—and it’s exciting to see how many states are waking up and changing that.
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