U.S. Sens. Alexander, Scott key in growing push to include school choice in federal relief bill

By Vivian Jones | The Center Square

As Congress remains at an impasse regarding the next round of COVID-19 relief, a measure that would create a permanent tax credit scholarship for students to attend schools of their choice could be included in the relief package.

The School Choice Now Act, presented by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, has the support of President Donald Trump’s administration, and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has advocated strongly for the measure to be included in the next round of COVID-19 relief funding.

“Thank you [Sens. Scott and Alexander] for your tireless support of students and of President [Trump’s] plan to provide #SchoolChoiceNow to students across America,” DeVos wrote in a tweet. “This bill must be part of any relief package to help all students return safely to school in the fall.”

In COVID-19 relief negotiations, the Trump administration has requested $105 billion toward school reopening efforts. About 10 percent of that would go toward the school-choice initiative, RealClear Politics reported.

“This is about the 5.7 million American children who attend private schools,” Alexander said in a video with Scott explaining the legislation. “They’ll get their fair share of the money that the Senate and Congress will appropriate to help children go back safely to school. It will go to states, who will then in turn give it to families, who will have more choices of schools.”

Alexander and Scott announced the School Choice Now Act earlier this summer, and the bill now has seven Senate co-sponsors. Companion legislation in the House introduced by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Aug. 25 already has 110 cosponsors.

“It allows for kids to maintain their pre-pandemic education path,” Scott said. “This gives power to parents – and we all know when parents have a choice, kids have a better chance of success.”

The bill would provide one-time emergency funding to scholarship-granting organizations in each state and allows states to create permanent tax credit scholarship programs. A permanent, dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit would be created for contributions to scholarship-granting organizations.

Funds awarded to families through the tax credit scholarship program could be used for nonpublic educational expenses, such as private school tuition and home schooling expenses, and parents would be free to choose the best educational choice for their child.

“All parents, regardless of income or circumstance, should be able to decide which school best meets their child’s needs, whether that school is public or private,” Alexander said. “The School Choice Now Act provides scholarships to students to have the opportunity to return to the private school they attended before the pandemic – and gives other students a new opportunity to attend private school.”