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Universal School Choice Revolution Unfolds as States Plan an Aggressive Push in 2024

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In 2023, universal school choice significantly increased when a wave of red states passed legislation supporting it. Several months later, more states are looking to join the fold. Hence, it has led to a “school choice revolution.”

During an interview, American Federation For Children Senior Fellow Corey DeAngelis told the media to look out for more states passing universal school choice legislation. According to DeAngelis, “a sea of change is underway.”

In addition, DeAngelis noted that the school choice revolution unfolded because “teacher unions overplayed their hand.” DeAngelis added that they “awakened the sleeping giant: parents who want more of a say in their kids’ education.” Furthermore, DeAngelis revealed that over six states passed universal school choice.

“So this year we had several states go all in on school choice, passing universal school choice,” DeAngelis said. “This means every single family’s eligible, regardless of income, background, zip code.” According to reports, nine states have passed universal school choice legislation, with Arizona leading the charge in July 2022.

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These measures were possible because of the GOP trifecta in those states. It is a trend across all red states that passed the school legislation. North Carolina, on the other hand, 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,” DeAngelis said. “We’re going to see momentum in 2024 in those states that haven’t gone universal on school choice already.”

Similarly, Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who signed a universal school choice bill in 2023, supported the bill. Huckabee said a conservative education revolution is underway. She spoke before the Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who unveiled his new school choice measure at the press conference.

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“There is an absolute conservative education revolution happening in our country,” Huckabee said. “And I wanted to be part of it here in Tennessee and my home Arkansas.” At the press conference, Lee unveiled the Tennessee Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024 (TEFS). 

Lee argues the new school choice program will “empower parents” with the freedom to choose where they send their children. Also, Lee looks to expand eligibility for a taxpayer-funded voucher program to every child in Tennessee. According to reports, the funds would cover a student’s tuition to a private school. 

Consequently, Tennessee’s House and Senate leadership endorsed and approved Lee’s universal school choice proposal. However, despite its GOP trifecta, Texas has struggled to pass universal school choice legislation.

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According to reports, the Texas lawmakers disagreed on school choice. Consequently, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session on school choice to happen on Oct. 9, 2023. According to sources, it is one of Abbott’s top legislative priorities this year.

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

Consequently, Texas state lawmakers could face consequences for choosing not to support school choice. Sources suggest the party could oust lawmakers in the next primary election cycle.

Using Iowa as an example, DeAngelis said claiming support for school choice is a “GOP-litmus test” issue. GOP Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed nine candidates with a pro-parent platform in primary elections. However, he ousted the incumbent GOP candidates who did not support that platform.

President and CEO of EdChoice, Robert Enlow, expressed his expectations for universal school choice. “In 2024, educational choice will continue its march across America,” Enlow said. “So, it’s impossible to pick just one state where they will enact the universal choice next.”

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