Arizona is another state that’s been helping parents. Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed legislation creating an Education Savings Account program for special-needs students. Under it, Arizona deposits 90 percent of the state per-pupil education funding into a savings account that parents control. They can use it for private-school tuition, online education, home-schooling, or to save for college. The funds that are unused in one year can be rolled over to the next. Up to 17,000 special-needs students are expected to be eligible for the program this year.
States also have been getting private businesses involved. Rhode Island, for example, has its Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit program. Businesses can get a tax credit worth 75 percent of whatever they contribute to a scholarship-granting organization. Pennsylvania has been doing something similar for the last decade -- offering businesses a tax credit to encourage charitable donations that fund tuition scholarships.
Perhaps the most hopeful sign occurred here in our nation’s capital: Congress has reauthorized the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP). Despite its popularity and success, the program was being phased out, and President Obama was doing nothing to save it. Now, however, thanks in large measure to House Speaker John Boehner, the program has been restored. In fact, the program’s reauthorization is the only piece of legislation Boehner will sponsor this year -- that’s how important the issue is to him.
The DCOSP budget went up, too, from $13.2 million to $20 million. Low-income students in elementary grades will receive scholarships worth $8,000. For high-school students, it will be $12,000.
There’s still a long way to go, of course. School choice isn’t as widely available as it should be, and teachers’ unions continue to fight it at every step. And although the trend lines are moving in the right direction, we can’t rest until every child has access to the school that best meets his or her needs. Our nation’s future depends on it.