Coronavirus Stimulus Package Specifically Blocks School Choice

Students work on their laptop computers at St. Joseph Catholic School in La Puente, California on November 16, 2020, where pre-kindergarten to Second Grade students in need of special services returned to the classroom today for in-person instruction. - The campus is the second Catholic school in Los Angeles County …
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The 5,600-page coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress Monday evening specifically blocks governors from using emergency education relief funds for school choice programs.

Page 1,865 of the 5,600-page bill states under “Restrictions” for the use of the $2.75 billion allotted for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, created in the earlier coronavirus relief bill in March:

Funds provided under this section shall not be used … (B) to provide or support vouchers, tuition tax credit programs, education savings accounts, scholarships, scholarship programs, or tuition-assistance programs for elementary or secondary education.

Eric Boehm wrote at Reason Tuesday the new restrictions on GEER funds come “seemingly in response to the fact that several governors used the first round of GEER funding to launch or expand school choice programs.”

The pro-school choice American Federation for Children (AFC), said in a statement that, in passing the bill with that restriction on governors, Republicans and Democrats who voted in favor of the legislation are largely promoting the “status quo in education.”

“At a time when families are extremely frustrated and 77 percent of parents with school age children in public school want more school choice, Congress will pump $54 billion into the K-12 system and remove the flexibility afforded to Governors under the previous CARES Act,” AFC said, noting further:

Democrats in Congress at the behest of the teachers’ unions forced a retreat from the one innovative education policy that was included in the CARES Act – the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund. Congress has restricted the use of those funds to prevent Governors from using them to create or augment educational choice programs in their states.

John Schilling, AFC president, said in a statement America’s non-public schools “have worked hard to safely and responsibly re-open, incurring significant costs to do so”:

The same cannot be said for too many traditional public schools. We urged Congress to think boldly in this time of crisis by including Sen. Tim Scott’s School Choice Now legislation, which would have channeled non-public school relief directly to families and created a federal tax credit that would have provided much needed flexibility and choice for public and non-public school families alike.

“[T]he power of the teachers’ unions was flexed again and Congress sent another $50+ billion for public schools, thousands of which have failed to deliver a full time, quality education to millions of students since March,” Schilling said.

A recent report released by the Association of Christian Schools International showed 90 percent of Christian schools opened the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction as planned.

In July, President Donald Trump urged that federal funds be given to parents for a school of their choice if their local public school districts refused to open during the pandemic.

“If schools do not reopen, the funding should go to parents to send their child to public, private, charter, religious, or home school of their choice,” Trump said, as Breitbart News reported. “The keyword being choice. If the school is closed, the money should follow the student.”

A recently published study found significant declines in the suicide rate of adolescents in the wake of the enactment of laws that allow school choice.

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