LIFE | Coalition argues taxpayer dollars should fund students, not institutions

School Choice-Kentucky
School choice advocates rally at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. They are supporting legislation that would give tax credits to people who donate to scholarship funds for special-needs children or those in low-income homes to attend private schools.Bruce Schreiner / AP file photo

(The Center Square) – More than 60 organizations in the U.S. have created a movement – “Yes. Every kid” – promoting policies and funding at a national and local level that focus on the needs of families and students over institutions.

At a time when tens of millions of students face nearly six months without consistent schooling, and while many schools are not reopening, the coalition argues that tax and other dollars should be sent directly to families to determine which educational opportunities are best for them.

“Families have already paid for the ability to access public education” through tax dollars, the coalition says. “Any additional funds should be provided directly to families via grants, stipends, rebates, or other mechanisms designed to help cover the schooling, courses, devices, connectivity, tutoring, socialization, extracurricular activities, and other forms of learning that have been left to parents to pay for.

Consternation continues over public schools reopening, the group argues: “Tens of thousands of schools will be closed partially or for the entirety of the fall semester. This comes after weeks of conflicting statements and guidance from government, school, and public health officials at all levels regarding what could be expected for the 2020-21 school year.”

As a result, “extraordinary hardships will be put upon parents and guardians who are working to ensure their child or children continue to learn while simultaneously making a living, whether in an office or at home. Too many are unable to return to work because they have been thrust into the role of full-time childcare provider and at-home teacher. Many more are struggling to balance work while trying to implement an effective at-home learning program for multiple children.”

Instead of waiting for which policy politicians decide to implement, parents have turned to their friends, neighbors and family for practical solutions. Some have created micro-schools. Others in record numbers have decided to homeschool.

“Yet the main response from politicians and policymakers has focused on institutions, not families,” the coalition argues. And their efforts have “lost sight of one important fact: plans to reopen schools should be designed for the needs and desires of families, not the institutions that have been designated to serve them.”

“As a direct result of public school staff (both teachers and non-teachers) growing so much greater (57 percent and 157 percent respectively) than the increase in public school students (10.3 percent) between 1970 and 2016, the inflation-adjusted cost of educating a student in U.S. public schools increased by 150 percent between 1970 and 2016, from $4,934 to $12,220,” Mark J. Perry, author of the report, writes.

U.S. K-12 spending “already far outpaces that of most other developed countries,” the Goldwater Institute notes, adding, “school choice options have routinely rescued students whom the unions have failed.”

In Pennsylvania, parents are still waiting for the legislature to allow for school choice opportunities. From 2017 to 2018, Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program expanded by $10 million, increasing the number of available student scholarships by 3,000 and the average amount of each scholarship. But 49,356 student tax credit scholarship applications were denied – nearly half (49 percent) of all applications. To meet the current demand for scholarships, lawmakers would need to increase tax credit caps by $100 million.

“Each child deserves an education that fits their unique needs,” Marc LeBlond, senior policy analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation, said. “For hundreds of thousands of low to moderate-income Pennsylvania students, tax credit scholarships have offered an educational lifeline. But arbitrary tax credit caps on these popular programs limit the supply.”

The coalition calls for supporting a more “student-centered and resilient education system.”

“Yes. Every Kid’s” website provides free instructional material, videos, and information for parents about the quality of education. It also provides policy recommendations and ways for parents to get involved.

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