In a plan similar to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program — which critics call vouchers — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is pushing a $5-billion federal tax credit program for states across the country.
The proposed “Education Freedom Scholarships” could be used to enroll students in private schools or other education programs and services — everything from career and technical education to tutoring to school-related transportation and special education therapies, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Families would not be restricted to sending their child to a traditional public school in their neighborhood school zone.
The scholarships would be funded by voluntary donations, meaning contributions from individual and business taxpayers sent through a state scholarship granting organization. The contributions would be eligible for federal tax credits.
“No family is forced to accept a scholarship, no taxpayer is forced to contribute, no organization is forced to participate, and no state is forced to participate,” the U.S. Department of Education outlined in a fact sheet about the program.
Congress would have to approve the proposal and Democrats and teacher unions are already in opposition.
“Regardless of what they are called, vouchers, tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts rob public schools of vital funding and resources,” the National Education Association has stated.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and key Republican lawmakers are pushing to expand state voucher programs for kids to attend private schools, with the Legislature considering proposals in the spring legislative session that begins next week.
The Florida Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union, is fighting back, launching a “Fund Our Future” broadcast and digital ad campaign to promote public education and neighborhood schools.
Some families and advocates support the scholarship programs that allow students to attend private schools with public dollars.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush supports the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal. Bush heads the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd).
“All families should have the power to determine the best educational path for their children,” Bush said in a statement. “The Education Freedom Scholarship Program will expand successful choice efforts in states across the country, empowering more families to explore educational opportunities without increasing the size of government or raising taxes.”