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School Choice is a Bipartisan Issue08 May

School choice is often characterized as a conservative cause.  Yet, this is not the case.  Both Republicans and Democrats have recognized the value of empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their children.  Members of both politicaID-10069170l parties understand that the current system is unjust because access to a quality education is often determined based on a family’s income or ZIP Code.

The “mother of school choice” was a black Democrat named Polly Williams.  She was the driving force behind the first modern school choice program in the United States passed in 1989.  Since that time, 14 Republican controlled states have implemented school choice programs and the following Democratic governors have presided over the passage of school choice legislation:

States Governor Number of Bills Signed Year Bill Signed
Arizona Janet Napolitano 6 bills 2006, 2007, 2008
Iowa Tom Vilsack 1 bill 2006
Iowa Chet Culver 2 bills 2007, 2009
North Carolina Beverly Perdue 1 bill 2011
Oklahoma Brad Henry 1 bill 2010
Pennsylvania Ed Rendell 3 bills 2006, 2007, 2008
Wisconsin Jim Doyle 1 bill 2006

The school choice movement still enjoys a great deal of bipartisan support across the nation.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has championed one of the largest school choice proposals in the country.  Senator Rand Paul has made school choice a major part of his presidential platform.  There are few politicians that are farther apart on the political spectrum than Senator Paul and Governor Cuomo.  Yet, both are in agreement that all parents deserve a real choice when it comes to their children’s education.

This spirit of bipartisanship is also present in Kentucky.  Representatives Tommy Thompson (D) and David Floyd (R) sponsored House Bill 384 during the 2015 session of the General Assembly.  If passed, House Bill 384 would create a tax credit program which would incentivize donations to tuition assistance organizations.  This would increase the overall amount of tuition assistance available to Kentucky families.

In 2016, Kentucky will have a new governor who will need to find common ground between the parties.  School choice legislation provides an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together in a divided government.   The parties should follow the lead of Representatives Thompson and Floyd by passing legislation like House Bill 384.  In doing so, Kentucky would join a national, bipartisan movement seeking to give every child the education they deserve.

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