U.S. Representatives Mark Walker (R-N.C.), Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduced the School Choice Now Act today to protect students whose families have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The bill would allocate a portion of coronavirus relief funds to help low-income families struggling to pay their students' private-school tuition or other educational expenses and create a permanent tax-credit scholarship program to protect students' continued access to the schools of their choice.
"Providing our children with the opportunity to succeed in the face of adversity is vital to securing their bright futures in life," Walker said. "Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into the schooling plans for millions of Americans. I am proud to support the School Choice Now Act to expand their education choices and continue fighting for their success not only in the classroom, but beyond."
"A high quality education has the power to expand opportunities to those who through no fault of their own face extremely difficult circumstances," said Byrne. "Unfortunately, the pandemic has created additional roadblocks for countless students, overwhelmingly and disproportionately those with limited education opportunities, and many schools across our nation are even at the point of closure. With so many of our children's futures at stake, it is absolutely critical we act now to expand education choices and freedom to ensure children at risk of permanently falling behind can achieve the education necessary to unlock the door to a brighter future. With so much disagreement and political posturing in Washington lately, surely we can put politics aside to take concrete action to help schoolchildren and give hope to struggling communities."
"As a former teacher, I know how critical it is that students continue their education despite the pandemic," said Lipinski. "I was proud to support emergency federal funding for K-12 students earlier this year, but more is now needed. We must focus on ensuring that we help all students, including the nearly 6 million who attend private schools. Many of these schools, especially those run by Catholic institutions in urban areas like Chicago, serve low-income and minority communities particularly hard hit by COVID-19. The School Choice Now Act is the best way to help these students, since funding would be provided to state-certified SGOs (scholarship granting organizations), which already exist in many states, including my own state of Illinois. By supporting SGOs, Congress can help families who are now facing the gut-wrenching task of having to take a child out of their school because they can no longer pay tuition. If we don't act now, not only will these children lose access to their schools, but public schools will face a massive influx of new students resulting in over-crowded schools, an increased burden on taxpayers, and greater hardships for already-struggling communities. By creating the permanent tax credit in this bill, we will also help more Americans provide scholarships that support vulnerable students and their families."
By no fault of their own, schools around the country are permanently closing their doors - already more than 60 Catholic schools and countless other private institutions have permanently shuttered, forcing vulnerable students into unfamiliar educational settings in the middle of a global pandemic. The School Choice Now Act would help address challenges seriously exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic to give students and parents around the country the freedom they deserve to make educational decisions that are right for their children. The legislation would:
- Provide for an emergency appropriation for scholarship-granting organizations to fund scholarships for students struggling to attend the school of their choice.
- Provide for a permanent dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit for contributions to scholarship-granting organizations, capped at $5 billion per year.
- Allow states to administer their own scholarship programs that work for the needs of students in their state.
This bill is an updated companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).