Times Standard (Eureka)
Pandemic, culture wars revive ‘school choice’ policy push
Nichole Mason first became concerned when she learned administrators at her children’s public school were allowing transgender students to use girls’ bathrooms. Her frustrations mounted when she felt her children’s next school went too far with how they enforced COVID regulations during the pandemic.
Now, the mother of five is among a swelling number of parents around the United States funneling those frustrations into a renewed push to get state lawmakers to create taxpayer-funded programs to help parents pay for other educational options including private school, home-schooling or hybrid models. In Utah, a proposal would allow roughly 5,000 students to apply for $8,000 scholarships.
“If right now my kid’s school is getting $10,000 a year to educate him, he’s not thriving and I could do a better job educating him with $8,000,” said Mason, who co-founded the Utah chapter of the group Parents United. “Then I feel a moral obligation to give him an outstanding education instead of a satisfactory education.”
At least a dozen other states are considering similar legislation in what has emerged as a landmark year for school choice battles.
With memories fresh from pandemic-era school closures and curriculum battles — particularly over how matters of gender and race are taught — Mason and legions of parents like her are trekking to the marble floors of their state Capitols to fight to create education savings accounts, also known as ESAs. Though they vary, these voucher-style proposals have been introduced in states including Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.