Across the country, parents, many of them low-income, are using school choice to educate their children at schools outside their public neighborhood options. Twenty-nine states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico provide some school choice program for students to attend private schools, including tax-credit scholarships, school vouchers, tax deduction and education savings accounts. Many more states (44 and D.C. and Puerto Rico) allow for high-performing charter schools, which are public schools with less red tape than traditional public schools.
Trump’s roundtable highlighted these successes as well as those of particular states. For example, Trump heaped praise on Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis who, less than a year into his tenure, secured legislation to move 14,000 students off wait lists for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
However, despite successful state programs, far too many students are without access to quality schools, which is why President Trump says the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal is necessary. The bill, authored by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), would strengthen school choice from a federal level while allowing states to have the flexibility to manage how the scholarships are structured, determine which students are eligible and how the funds could be used.
The demand for school choice is largely a reflection of frustration with the current system. K-12 education in the U.S. ranks 13 in science and 31 in math compared to other Organization for Economic-Cooperation and Development countries. Yet, the U.S. is the second-biggest spender on K-12 schools (after Norway). The recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results found that student reading proficiency declined in 17 states and mathematical proficiency is stagnant. This is why, according to a RealClear Opinion Research poll this month, 70 percent of registered voters favor a federal tax credit scholarship and 68 percent support some form of school choice.