Scott Introduces CHOICE Act for Military Families, Parents of Students with Disabilities and Low Income Families

Washington – In conjunction with National School Choice Week, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) today introduced the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act (S. 235), or CHOICE Act. The CHOICE Act would give military families, families of students with disabilities, and low-income students in Washington, D.C. – together totaling more than 6.2 million students nationwide - access to greater educational opportunity.

“Every single student deserves access to a quality education,” Senator Scott said. “We must make sure our education system is designed with that one, single concept in mind, and my CHOICE Act will help unlock the potential of students who might otherwise be left behind. I look forward to working with soon to be confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on this bill and other issues critical to the future of our children.”

The Senate also unanimously passed Senator Scott’s resolution declaring this week “National School Choice Week.” The full text of the resolution can be found here.

For the approximately 6 million students with disabilities between the ages of 6-21, the CHOICE Act encourages states to establish school choice programs by providing startup funds to support the design and initial implementation of a disability choice program. It also enables states that already run disability school choice programs to use federal IDEA funds to expand their options even further.

With nearly 200,000 children living on domestic military installations, it is vital that our men and women serving in the military know their children are receiving the best possible education. The CHOICE Act creates a Department of Defense pilot on at least 5 bases without DoD Education Activity schools to provide scholarships to students in military families on base of up to $8,000 for elementary and $12,000 for high school. To ensure accountability and transparency, it also requires an annual report and a final report on participation numbers, applicants, participating schools, and parental satisfaction.

Since 2004, the Washington DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP) has served more than 5,000 low-income children and has become a model for effective public scholarship programs. A majority of OSP scholarships serve minority families, and the average income for OSP families is approximately $21,000 a year. Since 2011, graduation rates in Washington public schools stayed between 55 and 70 percent, whereas for OSP students those rates skyrocket to more than 90 percent. The CHOICE Act clarifies that students previously attending private school are not excluded from participating in the OSP program, so long as they meet the requirements of being a low-income resident of Washington, DC.

Seven Senators are original cosponsors of the CHOICE Act, including: Alexander (TN), Boozman (AR), Cornyn (TX), Cruz (TX), Hatch (UT), McConnell (KY) and Wicker (MS).