Red State Governors Push For School Choice Legislation Across The Country

Reagan Reese 

  • Red state governors are voicing their support for school choice programs as legislation moves through their states. 
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin are supporting Education Savings Account (ESA) programs in their state to provide families who withdraw their students from public and charter schools with taxpayer funds.
  • “We have to set aside this us-versus-them mentality. If you want to pretend that this is a war between two different school systems, then you’re not focused on our children,” Reynolds said in her Jan. 10 Condition of the State speech.

Red state governors across the country are pushing for expansive school choice legislation in their state to fund students outside of the public school system.

Several governors have made school choice bills a top priority for state legislatures in 2023. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin are on the forefront of pushing for Education Savings Account (ESA) programs which provide families who withdraw their students from public and charter schools with taxpayer funds.

In Iowa, Reynolds announced the proposal of House Study Bill 1, which would allocate $7,598, the average cost the state spends on a public school student, for any family in the state to cover private school costs. With approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill, supported by Reynolds, is expected to pass in January, according to KCCI News.

“We have to set aside this us-versus-them mentality,” Reynolds said in her Jan. 10 Condition of the State speech. “If you want to pretend that this is a war between two different school systems, then you’re not focused on our children.”

For 2023, Stitt has made school choice legislation a priority in Oklahoma; five pieces of school choice legislation have been filed, including a bill that would make every student eligible for the state’s Education Savings Account program.

As a part of his school choice push, Stitt is visiting with Oklahoma charter school parents and families to listen and answer questions about the program, Stitt’s office told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“I’m looking forward to getting to work this year to talk with and listen to parents, students and teachers to come together and ensure every kid in the state receives the best education possible, regardless of economic status or zip code,” Stitt told the DCNF. “Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in education and as leaders, we need to put politics aside, ask the tough questions and have the tough conversations to address what’s working and what’s not. The future of our state depends on it.”

Youngkin issued a proclamation declaring the week of Jan. 22 “Virginia School Choice Week” in order to “raise awareness of the need for effective educational options” for students of the state. HB 1396, which has support from Youngkin, would allow all Virginians, regardless of income or previous schooling, to be eligible for the ESA program.

“Since day one, Governor Youngkin has worked to empower parents and provide every child across the Commonwealth with access to an excellent education, regardless of background or zip code,” Macaulay Porter, Youngkin’s spokeswoman, told the DCNF. “The governor has secured $100 million for lab schools, proposed an additional $50 million to expand this program, provided $30 million for parent-directed K-12 learning recovery grants and is working to grow Virginia’s tax credit scholarship program to help those families most in need.”

In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s budget recommendation takes into account $25 million for a ESA program that is set to be debated in January. The proposed legislation titled the “Put Parents in Charge Act” would give 5,000 students $6,000 for a private school education and increase it to 10,000 students the following year.

A recently proposed piece of Florida legislation HB 1, named “School Choice,” would expand on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ school choice plan and make all students, regardless of income or education history, eligible for vouchers up to $7,000 as a part of the ESA program.

“Since taking office, Governor DeSantis has been a vocal advocate for school choice,” Bryan Griffin, DeSantis’ press secretary told the DCNF. “As a result, Florida is ranked #1 for Education Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and #1 for parent empowerment according to the Center for Education Reform’s ‘Parent Power!’ index.”

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott backed school choice legislation moving through the state such as SB176, a bill that would create a program similar to Arizona’s, which is considered the country’s most expansive school choice system in the country.

“Our schools are for education and not indoctrination,” Abbott said in his Jan. 17 inaugural address. “Schools should not be putting forth social agendas. We must reform the curriculum and to get kids back to learning the basics and empower parents with the tools to challenge the curriculum when it falls short of expectations.”

Reynolds’ office, Abbott’s office and McMaster’s office did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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