Alexander introduces “ambitious” school choice measure

Legislation introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday would let states create $2,100 scholarships using existing federal education funding to allow 11 million low-income children to attend the school of their parents’ choice.

The Scholarships for Kids Act would redirect $24 billion of federal funding for K-12 education programs, which amounts to 41 percent of the total.

Alexander, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the “ambitious proposal” would address inequality.

“Our elementary and secondary education system is not the best in the world,” Alexander said. “U.S. 15-year-olds rank 28th in science and 36th in math. I believe one reason for this is that while more than 93 percent of federal dollars spent for higher education follow students to colleges of their choice, federal dollars do not automatically follow K-12 students to schools of their choice.”

In 2013, $33 billion in federal Pell grants and $106 billion in loans followed students to public and private colleges. Since passage of the GI Bill in 1944, vouchers have helped create a network of 6,000 autonomous higher-education institutions that is the best in the world, Alexander said.

Under the measure, states would maintain some governance of pupil assignment. States would, for example, be able to choose whether parents could send their children to private schools and mandate that the schools chosen be accredited.