Working across thirty-six states where Americans for Prosperity has a year-round permanent grassroots infrastructure, we get to realize legislative successes across multiple policy portfolios while also witnessing the states where stagnation rules supreme. In the context of transformative foundational education reform, 2023 has proven to be extraordinary for students and parents alike.
Today, we’ll dive into some of those wins in hopes of inspiring transformational approaches to K12 reform in Harrisburg. At Americans for Prosperity, our vision for Foundational Education is for the empowerment of every learner and family to discover how their passions and interests can create value in society, allowing them to live a life of meaning and purpose. We want to advance policies that create conditions to enable families to be active consumers of education. We also want to incentivize and support more education entrepreneurship to meet family preferences.
Polling has consistently shown that the public sees a future where families and educators work cooperatively on education. There will be many variations of this, from completely student-directed unschooling to parochial schools or no excuses charters. We support a dynamic education market, which itself will enable families to exercise preferences.
AFP supports funding every kid by enacting Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) with universal eligibility, unbundling funding formulas so funds follow students to the school, course, or provider where they are learning, and directing grants to families.
AFP supports ending residential assignments and expanding public school open enrollment with school capacity being the sole criteria to accept or decline student transfers. AFP also believes education should put a family’s preference first, not that of a system. Protecting learning pods and homeschool and other bottom-up solutions from legislative and regulatory threats is paramount.
Offensive opportunities to pass transformative legislation have been taken by several states just this calendar year. Six states have passed and signed into law universal eligibility ESA programs: West Virginia, Arizona, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas and Florida, listed in order of passage. Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1 into law on March 27th. The legislation converts the current Family Empowerment Scholarship Program and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program into an ESA and removes the cap on who can apply for the state’s multiple scholarship programs to create universal eligibility. The language also allows Florida to adopt a part time enrollment policy for students to take one or more courses at public schools that they are not enrolled in on a full-time basis.
When we think about a north star for transformative policy that positively impacts every family and student, Florida’s House Bill 1 is exhibit A. There’s legislation in progress in Kansas, North Carolina, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. Here in Pennsylvania, Representative Aaron Bernstine, LD08, has filed an amendment that takes the language of last legislative session’s House Bill 1 and guts House Bill 668, amending the bill to reflect House Bill 1, one of the most transformative educational reform packages in the nation. This measure is by far the most comprehensive education reform language introduced in our commonwealth to date, providing multiple reforms in one package around choice, funding and learning flexibility.
Additionally, memos have been released to reintroduce lifeline scholarship legislation. Lifeline scholarships are a small step in the right direction as they allow students in lower performing schools the opportunity to find alternative paths to learning. At AFP, we encourage legislators from both sides of the aisle to find ways to empower all children across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by expanding educational opportunities.
The future for students and families is bright in states that haven’t nibbled around the edges, but who have applied transformational principles in policymaking. PA leaves much to be desired, but there are several members from both chambers who seek to ensure an excellent education for every student. To learn more about K12 reform investments AFP is making, visit https://americansforprosperity.org. I’m Ashley Klingensmith, State Director with Americans for Prosperity-PA. You can connect with us on Facebook by searching @PAAFP and can follow us on Twitter by searching @AFPPennsylvania.
Ashley S. Klingensmith | State Director | Americans for Prosperity – PA