Choice Benefits the Needy Most

Choice Benefits the Needy Most
January 29, 2014

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann ( is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly #23

Tens of millions of children could reach schools of choice if $35 billion of their federal K–12 dollars follow them there, as two U.S. Senators proposed Tuesday:

Whether those schools would be public only or private and public would depend on the decisions of state lawmakers, said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

Alexander’s bill would shift approximately 41 percent of federal education spending from 80 programs into 11 million scholarships of $2,100 each. If states chose, parents below the federal poverty line could use the money for things like tuition, extracurriculars, tutoring, and homeschooling materials. Scott’s bill would work similarly for federal special-education spending and create a pilot voucher program on five military bases.

“Equal opportunity in America should mean that everyone has the same starting line, as much as possible,” Alexander said, announcing his proposal at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC.

States that opted to distribute their federal education funds this way would be exempt from some provisions of No Child Left Behind, such as the federal designation of and sanctions on low-performing schools, but still required to test public school students in grades 3–8 and high school.

Republicans finally have begun to notice that school choice is extremely popular among the minority and poor voters from whom they consistently get few votes. This proposal is one of several intended to demonstrate that conservatives have got game when it comes to lifting the most vulnerable in our society. It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s a refreshing step away from the bipartisan consensus that Washington knows best.

The best and most important reason to support school choice, as Scott reinforced by telling his life story in introducing his bill, is because it offers both justice and mercy to those in our society who need it most. Leftists have one thing right: Many in our country are suffering. The big question is whether government and central planning or neighbors and the freedom to choose are more effective at relieving that suffering.

As Scott said, freedom gives people dignity. School choice benefits the poor most, as Alexander said, because they have the fewest resources for solving problems government creates. Their bills may not pass until Americans elect leaders who see this ... which requires Americans to see this first.

P.S. Heartland is holding a National School Choice Week event Thursday in Chicago. Join us!

SOURCE: School Reform News


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Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann ( is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)