On Monday evening, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participated in the American Federation for Children (AFC) National Policy Summit. As you may know, the American Federation for Children is an organization that champions school choice options for students, including vouchers. Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Ms. DeVos served as Chairman of the organization. In her keynote address, the Secretary provided additional insight into how the Administration plans to implement school choice, or approach such legislation. Ms. DeVos stated the following:
"I firmly believe every state should provide choices and embrace equal opportunity in education. But those are decisions states must make. No two states are the same and no two states' approaches will be the same – and that's a good thing. States are the best laboratories of our democracy."
Additionally, the Secretary stated:
"The President is proposing the most ambitious expansion of education choice in our nation's history. The proposal's aim is to empower states and give leaders like Gov. Eric Holcomb the flexibility and opportunity to enhance the choices Indiana provides for Indiana students."
The Secretary's comments confirm that the Administration will pursue a school choice initiative that allows States to determine policy with regard to the implementation of school choice and participation in a federally-administered school choice program. The Secretary was clear that, "[i]f a state doesn't want to participate, that would be a terrible mistake on their part," adding, "[w]e all fundamentally know one size doesn't fit all...and that we won't accomplish our goals by creating a new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers' money."
While Ms. DeVos provided some detail regarding the Administration's likely approach to school choice, the address did not detail how States may participate in the program or how the Department would administer school choice funds. As previously reported, the Administration's proposed FY2018 budget directed $1billion in Title I funds to school choice grants, referred to as FOCUS grants. Both Congress and the Administration will likely pursue school choice legislation this summer. Ms. DeVos' speech can be accessed online.
NSBA is prioritizing advocacy with congressional staff regarding upcoming school choice legislation, emphasizing data on charter schools, the impact of diverting public funds to private education programs, and sharing information on existing choice options currently offered by public schools.
Article courtesy of NSBA Legislative Highlights 5/26/17