The number of states that have added an option to allow some or all of the funds for K-12 education in public schools to follow the children appears to be causing issues with….teachers unions.
In the following article from The Washington Examiner they spell out some of the efforts and tactics teachers unions are going to try and stop “choice”
The effort seeks to repeal a state law passed this year that established a $25 million tax credit program for donors who give money to a scholarship fund that can be used for private school tuition.
In the wake of a school choice legislation wave dating back to last year, opponents of such programs, often with the backing of teachers unions, have resorted to trying to force ballot referendums as a means to repeal programs passed by state legislatures.
Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, blasted the unions for “trap[ping] kids in their failing government schools at all costs.”
“If these power-hungry unions used half as much energy improving their schools as they do fighting against parental rights in education, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about competition,” DeAngelis told the Washington Examiner. “In the end, the parents will win the war these unions waged on their children, and that’s because parents care about their kids more than anyone else.”
Indeed, school choice has swept through state legislatures in numerous states, as Republican-controlled states have passed universal school choice programs. In 2022, Arizona became the largest state to have a universal school choice program and served as the crowning achievement for outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s two terms in office.
Following the 2022 elections, several states enacted broad expansions of school choice, beginning with Iowa but later followed by Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, Ohio, and Nebraska. The tidal wave of legislative victories for school choice has led to a record level of eligibility for such programs as the 2023-24 school year begins.
Amid the increase in school choice program eligibility, efforts to force ballot referendums have cropped up with it, but with mixed results.
Last year, Arizona made national headlines for drastically expanding the state’s existing school choice program so that all students, regardless of income, were eligible for the program. An attempt to force a statewide referendum to challenge the school choice legislation failed to gain enough traction as organizers failed to collect the requisite number of signatures needed to force a statewide vote. A similar bid failed in Arkansas earlier this year.
But in Nebraska, the group Save Our Schools seems to have had more success. On Wednesday, the organization submitted more than 100,000 signatures to the Nebraska secretary of state with an eye toward qualifying the issue for the 2024 ballot. The group needed to collect 60,000 valid signatures to force the referendum.
“I’ve traveled all across our state these past 90 days and I am heartened by the support I’ve seen from Nebraskans for their public schools,” Jenni Benson, the president of the Nebraska State Education Association, said in a statement. “Nebraskans from all walks of life, and all areas — rural, urban, small towns and everywhere in-between — have been overwhelmingly supportive of the petition effort to put the repeal of LB753 to a vote. Nebraskans want to keep their public schools strong.”
While the signatures must be verified, Tim Royers, who submitted the signatures last week, said that the group was confident they had qualified the issue on the ballot.
“We’ve checked every signature,” Royers said, according to 6 News. “So when I tell you this is getting on the ballot, it’s 100% certain.”
In a statement, Gov. Jim Pillen (R-NE) vowed to protect the program, saying he had “confidence in education, both public and private.”
“I will continue to make sure each student in Nebraska has the educational freedom to choose where they want to attend school,” Pillen said. “We will never give up on our kids.”