We enjoy liberties in almost every aspect of life, but unfortunately, one area lags behind: choice in education. Thankfully, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is working to expand school-choice options for families with S.1909, the CHOICE Act (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education).
Too often students are forced into a one-size-fits-all approach to education. While many traditional neighborhood schools do a tremendous job of educating children, even the best public school in South Carolina will not be able to meet the needs of every child who is zoned for that school. It’s essential that we provide educational options for all families and students — whether traditional public schools, charter schools, virtual charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, parochial schools or homeschooling.
This legislation will expand options under the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, by increasing portability of funds — which would be available to help with start-up costs, including the design and initial implementation of a disability choice program. The CHOICE Act also will implement a five-year pilot program for military families living on base by using $10 million in existing funds to create scholarships for these children to attend the school of their choice — up to $8,000 for elementary and $12,000 for high school students.
The legislation gives parents of disabled children the increased ability to find a learning environment that will tap into a child's full potential by meeting unique learning needs. As the mother of a special-needs child utilizing a public virtual school and of an advanced learner in a brick-and-mortar charter school, I know the power of this legislation. So many children with disabilities have needs that simply cannot be met in a traditional school setting. Finding just the right educational fit can open a whole new world of possibilities.
Ultimately, the funding to support education should follow a child to the school of his or her choice. Sen. Scott’s proposal puts our students first and expands educational options for families. I hope Congress will take action.