Georgia should follow North Carolina and adopt universal school choice

North Carolina recently became the latest state that borders Georgia to pass sweeping education freedom legislation.

Many states are adopting policies that allow parents to choose the methods of education that best fit their children. In fact, this year alone, at least 19 states have significantly expanded school choice policies. That’s why National Review called 2023 “the most successful year in the history of school choice advocacy.”

It’s about time.

The school choice movement has been around for decades, and recent polling shows popular opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of school choice, regardless of party affiliation or demographic. This is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many parents to reconsider educational options for their children. 

School choice options typically include traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, homeschooling or a mixture of those options, which is increasingly popular. These options give students the freedom to learn in ways that work for them. There is an educational revolution happening in America, as states are enacting laws supporting educational freedom. 

Enter North Carolina, the most recent state to pass universal school choice. North Carolina accomplished this last step by raising funding for its Opportunity Scholarship program from $176.5 million to $520.5 million within the next decade and making every student eligible for school choice programs. This will allow families to receive education savings accounts ranging from $3,200 to $7,500 per child to cover tuition costs and will allow parents to choose which school will be the best fit. 

Remarkably, North Carolina was also the first state to pass universal school choice under a Democratic governor, not to mention one who has been particularly outspoken in his opposition to school choice. Realizing school choice supporters had a veto-proof majority, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper even declared a “state of emergency,” warning that through a school choice bill, “the Republican legislature is aiming to choke the life out of public education.” Many were quick to point out the hypocrisy of this statement, as Cooper’s own daughter attended an expensive private school. (The same hypocrisy is also found at the federal level.)

The school choice win also came with the help of Rep. Tricia Cotham, a former Democrat who switched party affiliation, giving the Republicans the necessary votes to overcome the governor’s veto. The veto never happened.

In many ways, the path to an expansive school choice program should be easier in Georgia than the Tar Heel state.

As Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, argues, “If Republicans in North Carolina and Arizona can pass universal school choice, all red states should be able to get the job done and empower all families with education freedom.”

Earlier this year, a Georgia bill proposing $6,500 ESAs for children in low-performing public schools passed the Senate but failed in the House with 16 Republicans voting against it, despite support from Republican leadership. There will be another chance in 2024, when Georgia can join our neighbors in Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and now North Carolina in expanding education freedom.

As the school choice revolution gains momentum and students across the nation are increasingly able to benefit from an education that works for their individual needs, Georgia’s students should not be left behind.

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