These states plan an aggressive universal school choice push in 2024: ‘Teachers unions overplayed their hand’


Universal school choice made significant gains in 2023 when a wave of red states passed legislation. Now, more states are looking to join the fold next year, a phenomenon called a “school choice revolution.”

American Federation For Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis told Fox News Digital recently to look out for more states passing universal school choice legislation because a sea change is underway.

“A school choice revolution has unfolded because the teacher unions overplayed their hand and awakened the sleeping giant: parents –who want more of a say in their kids’ education,” DeAngelis said after six states passed universal school choice this year.

“So this year we had several states go all in on school choice–passing universal school choice–meaning every single family’s eligible, regardless of income, background, zip code.”

Nine states have passed universal school choice legislation so far with Arizona leading the charge in July 2022. These measures were made possible because of the GOP trifecta in those states (holding the governor’s mansion, the state house and state senate) –a trend across all of the red states that passed school choice legislation. 

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North Carolina, however, was the first to do so without a GOP trifecta.

“We have 22 states in the country right now that have GOP trifecta where the Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office. We’re going to see momentum in 2024 in those states that haven’t gone universal on school choice already,” DeAngelis said.

Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who signed a universal school choice bill earlier in the year, said that a conservative education revolution is underway, speaking before the Republican Gov. Bill Lee unveiled his new school choice measure at a press conference.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who signed a universal school choice bill earlier in the year, spoke alongside Republican Gov. Bill Lee before he unveiled his new school choice measure at a press conference (Screenshot/ YouTube)

“There is an absolute conservative education revolution happening in our country and I wanted to be part of it here in Tennesee and in my home Arkansas,” Huckabee Sanders said.

Here are the states on the watch list to pass universal school choice legislation next year.

Tennessee

Lee unveiled last month the Tennessee Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024 (TEFS), a new statewide school choice program that he argues will “empower parents” with the freedom to choose where they send their child.

Tennessee’s current Education Savings Accounts Pilot Program (ESA), enacted in 2019, is currently only available to students from low and middle-income households in Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville. 

Lee looks to expand eligibility for a taxpayer-funded voucher program to every child in Tennessee. The funds would cover the tuition of a student going to a private school. Furthermore, Tennessee’s House and Senate leadership endorsed Lee’s universal school choice proposal.

Tennessee’s House and Senate leadership endorsed Lee’s universal school choice proposal.

Texas

Texas has struggled to pass universal school choice legislation despite its GOP trifecta. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session to happen on Oct. 9 after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on school choice, which has been one of Abbott’s top legislative priorities this year.

Per the Texas Tribune, the state senate tried different ways to pass an education savings account program, but Democrats and rural Republicans blocked their efforts.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott looks on during a news conference on March 15, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Texas state lawmakers could face consequences for choosing not to support school choice by being ousted in the next primary election cycle. 

Claiming support for school choice is a “GOP-litmus test” issue, DeAngelis said, using Iowa as an example of incumbent GOP candidates losing primary elections after choosing not to support the governor’s proposed universal school choice bill. 

GOP Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed nine candidates with a pro-parent platform in primary elections, ousting the incumbent GOP candidates who did not support that platform.

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Per the Texas Tribune, the governor of the Lone Star State recently backed an “activist mother,” Hillary Hickland, a challenger against Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, who was one of the 21 Republicans that struck down a voucher program out of an education bill.

Rural Republicans argue that school choice may not favor their constituency because there are not many options in rural areas like there are in suburban and urban communities.

North Dakota

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum in April vetoed a school choice bill because it was not expansive enough. 

“In its final amended form, this bill is not the comprehensive solution we need. If falls short of meaningfully enhancing school choice – especially in rural areas far from any existing nonpublic schools – and lacks incentives to expand nontraditional options for K-12 education,” Burgum said.

Burgum went on to say, “The bill also lacks public transparency and accountability standards for the actual use of the proposed tuition offset payments.”

The bill would have allocated $10 million to provide vouchers for eligible parents to pay for private school tuition. Now, the bill will undergo another review in the legislature and will need a two-thirds majority support in both chambers to pass.

Alabama

Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, sponsored a school choice bill, the Alabama Accountability Act, which is restricted to poor-performing schools and students from low-income families. Earlier this year, that bill was recently expanded, increasing eligibility to an estimated 200,000 students. 

The move was a score for the Yellowhammer State.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey looks to take it further and join the wave of red states pushing universal school choice legislation after calling for an education savings accounts bill to be available in the Alabama Legislature next year.

Kay Ivey

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey looks to join the wave of red states pushing universal school choice legislation after calling for an education savings accounts bill to be available in the Alabama Legislature next year.  (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

“My goal is for Alabama to be the most school choice-friendly state in the nation,” Ivey said. 

“I want us to have lots of school choices for our parents to choose from. We are working now, already, now, on a bill, an ESA bill, an education savings account bill, to present to the legislature in the next session and I’m very optimistic that will pass.”

“But, it is very important for our parents to have choices of where to send their children for school,” Ivey continued. “Whether it’s public, private, home-schooled or whatever But the goal is to get our children a quality education.”

Mississippi

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves outlined his vision in the Magnolia State earlier this month, according to a local ABC affiliate. Among eliminating state taxes and recruiting businesses, school choice expansion is on the bill.

“There’s been a huge push among Republicans around the country to give parents more options in their kids’ education,” Reeves said.

“We have seen tremendous progress when it comes to educational achievement levels in our state and the obvious next step is more school choice. And I hope the legislature acts on that and I believe there’s a lot of people in the legislature who want to do that.”

Louisiana 

Republican Jeff Landry, a school choice supporter, will replace Gov. John Bel Edwards in January. Edwards previously vetoed two bills that would foster school choice.

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled state House passed a school choice proposal that would expand to all families, regardless of need. 

“If a school cannot adequately educate its students, those students should be given the ability to obtain an education that is worthy of the commitment we have made to them,” Landry said on his campaign website.

In November, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., spoke on the Senate floor to call for school choice to serve the needs of all children.

“Now, school choice programs… can take many different shapes, but they all boil down to one thing, one foundational principle: Parents should be allowed to take their kids out of failing schools,” Kennedy said.

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DeAngelis noted that other states to lookout for to make advancements in school choice are Missouri, Wyoming, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Idaho.

DeAngelis added that school choice is difficult to pass in traditionally blue states like California, Illinois, and New York because the Democratic Party is “owned by the teachers union.”

“You look at Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers, in 2022, according to Open Secrets, 99.97% of the contributions from Randi’s AFT went to Democrats as opposed to independents or Republicans,” DeAngelis said.

He explained further, “It’s basically an elaborate money laundering scheme where the Democrats funnel the money to the government schools and then the teachers unions take that money and they give it back to the Democratic Party. It’s a nonstop wash, rinse, repeat money laundering scheme where the teachers unions are basically an arm of the Democratic Party at this point.”

Furthermore, Weingarten, the leader of one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, was seen in a viral video saying that school choice “undermines democracy” at the Network for Public Education Action national conference in October.

A clip of her remarks blasting methods of school choice was shared on X and went viral on social media this week.

Weingarten holding mic

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Ma., listens. ((Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))

In the video, Weingarten took aim at former White House Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo, and American Federation For Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis for advocating for school choice measures.

“They have not one thing that they offer as a solution other than privatizing or voucherizing schools which is about undermining democracy and undermining civil discourse and undermining pluralism because 90% of our kids go to public schools still,” she said. “They just divide. Divide. Divide. Divide.” 

Secondly, Chicago Public Schools most recently pushed a measure that seeks to move away from school choice. 

The Chicago Board of Education passed a resolution last week that seeks to move away from school choice and bolster the city’s neighborhood schools to address “long-standing structural racism and socio-economic inequality.”

The Chicago Teachers Union praised the effort. 

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Teachers unions typically lobby against school choice because they claim it siphons off taxpayer funding that is being allocated to other educational options and instead could be used to boost teachers’ salaries, invest in public school facilities, and recruit more teachers. 

“It’s an issue of parental rights and education,” DeAngelis said.

“That money belongs to the families and their children. They should be able to take it to the school that works best for them. And that could be the public school. You can still choose that with any school choice program,” he added.

Arizona led the charge of the “school choice revolution” when the Grand Canyon State opened up its Educational Savings Account program to all students, eliminating restrictions that had limited it to those in poor-performing school districts, Indian reservations and those with disabilities. 

Iowa Kim Reynolds

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an unprecedented school choice bill called the Students First Act on Tuesday, allowing any Iowa student to use public money to pay for private school tuition or other expenses. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Utah, and North Carolina joined Arizona in signing universal school choice legislation this year and also implemented ESA models. West Virginia has an ESA model, as well.  

Oklahoma passed a universal tax credit program and Ohio implemented a universal school voucher program. 

Indiana’s “Choice Scholarship Program” allows children in low- and middle-income families to receive vouchers to attend private schools. It turned out that 98% of families are eligible, making it nearly universal.

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School choice policies allow parents to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood or opt out of going to the public school in their neighborhood. Most states restrict parents to schools within their zip code or the school district that presides over their residential area. 

President and CEO of EdChoice, Robert Enlow, sent Fox News Digital a statement about prospects looking to pass universal school choice next year.

“In 2024, educational choice will continue its march across America, so it’s impossible to pick just one state where universal choice will be enacted next. We expect students in Louisiana and Tennessee to be the biggest winners in the coming year, as their states are primed to offer broad educational choice to all,” Enlow said.

“This school choice revolution was started by Milton Friedman in 1955 and supercharged by parents in 2020 when they began to see what opportunities educational freedom could offer their children.”





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