GOP pushes school choice as solution amid pandemic

Monday, February 22, 2021
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

student with notebook textbookSeveral House Republicans have introduced school-choice measures to help parents cope with the school lockdowns and online learning.

Some of the proposals put forth by members of the U.S. House Republican Study Committee in late January advocate opening education savings accounts for military families. Another would allow federal dollars for K-12 education to follow students in public, private, or homeschools.

Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana – who chairs the study committee – told The Daily Signal that if Congress had placed greater emphasis on school choice, "parents and students could've been freer to avoid the debacle of virtual learning last fall …. I hope Congress can learn from that mistake and promote school choice policies in the future."

One News Now spoke with The Daily Signal's Rachel del Guidice, who describes one of the problems with online learning.

"As much as 20% of American students lack access to the technology they use for remote learning," she explains. "And, on average, K-12 students have already suffered about seven months of 'learning loss.'"

Among the six bills introduced late last month:

  • Rep. Ted Budd (North Carolina) and Sen. Steve Daines (Montana) introduced the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act, which would give states more flexibility to spend their federal education dollars in the form of block grants.
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (South Carolina) introduced the Military Child Educational Freedom Act, which opens Coverdell Education Savings Accounts for active-duty military families who wish to use the funds for homeschooling, regardless of the state in which they reside.
  • Rep. Jim Banks (Indiana) introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act, which instructs the Secretary of Education to establish an education savings account (ESA) on behalf of a military family (if the family chooses) to pay for applicable education expenses. The account could pay for such expenses as: private school tuition, private online learning programs, individual classes and extracurriculars at public schools, textbooks, curricula and other instructional materials and contributions to a college savings account.

Even though Republicans introduced these measures, del Guidice contends school choice should not be a partisan issue. "This is about parents having the flexibility that they need to make decisions; [it's] not bureaucrats in Washington – and I think that's something that everyone really can agree on," says the journalist.

Banks also introduced a resolution calling on schools to safely and immediately reopen for in-person instruction. The Indiana Republican noted at the time that for almost a year, experts have gathered data on the effects of COVID-19 as well as the consequences of remote learning on children.

"Every possible metric indicates that young people need in-person instruction – and that failure to do so has disastrous consequences," he stated. "School districts nationwide must remain open."

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