Why school choice is good for black students » Publications » Washington Policy Center

The Arizona legislature is considering a bill to give low-income students fully-funded Empowerment Savings Accounts (ESAs), so some families can pay tuition at private schools if the family decides that is best for their child.

A community leader from Phoenix, Drew Anderson, tested in support of this innovative school choice bill. Here are some of his key points:

● “Time after time after time I have seen the educational system fail the black and brown community. I am grateful to everybody who understands the important of education in our African-American community.

● “We speak often about ending systems…yet here we are in 2022 and we have school districts not wanting to let those black bodies go because there is money attached to those black bodies.

● “No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room–that we have school districts that sit and complain about losing funding while all these black and brown kids are going to jail, going to prison.

● “We are in a crisis, where we are seeing black and brown kids fall behind academically. Every year the school district says we are working on it. How long do we sit back and work on it while the prisons are filled to capacity? …

● “We need a lifeline in the black community right now to say this isn’t working, let’s at least give another opportunity a shot.”

These eloquent statements reflect the same dead-end situation many families face in Washington state. Washington has 117 schools politely called “Priority” schools, serving about 44,000 students. These state-identified failing schools deny kids a quality education, so families want access to other opportunities.

Four innovative bills have been introduced in our state that would open exciting new learning opportunities for families. They are HB 1633, to give families $10,000 per student; HB 1215, to give families $7,000 per student; SB 5205, to give families $9,000 per student; and HB 1555, to give families $6,250 per student. All these bills would allow families to use these public dollars to pay private school tuition, access tutors and online program and pay other education-related costs.

School choice is becoming popular. Since COVID shut-downs began 18 states have expanded options like these for families, as I describe in our study here. Washington lawmakers should consider joining this list. Direct education financial assistance, in whatever amount, would help families overcome the harm imposed by COVID school closures and mandates, and open new ways to learn for children across the state.

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