Recently, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, which would make school choice an option for every family in Tennessee. Gov. Lee is one of a handful of governors making plans for their states to join the now ten states that have passed universal or near-universal school choice.
According to Gov. Lee, “It’s time for a statewide school choice plan that empowers parents, equips students for success, and allows Tennessee taxpayers to decide how their own dollars are invested.” With Republican supermajority control of both the state House and Senate, universal education freedom is on the horizon for passage in 2024.
Louisiana is also poised to join the universal education freedom ranks in 2024. With the recent gubernatorial election win by Republican Jeff Landry, term-limited Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards was replaced. As governor, Edwards vetoed bills that “would have allowed all families with children who weren’t reading at grade level or had special needs to take their state-funding education dollars to schools of their choice.”
By stark contrast, Landry believes, “If a school cannot adequately educate its students, those students should be given the ability to obtain an education that is worthy of the commitment we have made to them.” Furthermore, for Landry, “Parents should be empowered to decide how their child can best achieve their fullest academic potential because parents are the most important voice in a child’s education.”
When Mr. Landry takes office next month, he will no doubt get to work immediately on advancing education freedom for all families statewide. He is positioned to be successful due to Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is also preparing to pass education freedom in 2024 to reach all children. In a statement this summer after the close of the legislative session, Gov. Ivey said, “My goal is for Alabama to be the most school choice-friendly state in the nation. I want us to have lots of school choices for our parents to choose from.” She continued, “We are working now, already, now, on a bill, an ESA bill, an education savings account bill, to present to the legislature in the next session and I’m very optimistic that will pass.”
The groundwork was laid in the 2023 legislative session with the expansion of the Alabama Accountability Act. Historically, only families with children assigned to schools with D or F scores were allowed to apply for a scholarship to free them from failing schools. Now, the Act allows up to 25 percent of the scholarships to be allocated to children attending non-D or F rated public schools as long as they meet the household low-income threshold.
Georgia, despite coming up short in the House by a vote of 89-85 on passing a universal school choice bill in the 2023 legislative session, is arranging for a different outcome in 2024. Political pressure is being applied to Republican representatives who voted against the bill. The House can pick up the bill again in the next session without needing the Senate to pass it again due to Georgia’s two-year legislative terms.
Texas, currently on recess during the fourth special session, might be headed to a fifth session if Gov. Greg Abbott calls lawmakers back. The Texas Governor and Senate have been unwavering in working to advance school choice in the Lone Star State.
Yet as of a recent vote in the House, over 20 Republicans from rural areas voted alongside Democrats against school choice. Despite the state being known for freedom, Texas has historically looked more like a Democratic-controlled state than its Republican trifecta due to having almost no school choice. If those rural House Republicans don’t change course, they may find themselves voted out of office next year as Texas families want school choice.
Ten states — Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia — have passed legislation to grant all, or nearly all, families statewide with K-12 education freedom. Eight of them have Republican trifectas (nine at the time of passing).
It is time for all of the other 14 Republican trifecta states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming — to get the job done for the families of their state.