VP Mike Pence: Pennsylvanians deserve school choice | Opinion

February 7, 2020
In The News

During my recent visit to St. Francis de Sales Catholic School in Philadelphia, I saw firsthand just how important the issue of school choice is to working families in Pennsylvania. While schools around the state grapple with health hazards and overcrowded classrooms, school choice gives families immediate options to ensure their child is able to succeed.

Right now, there are 50,000 Pennsylvania students waiting for the opportunity to change schools. But when state legislators passed a school choice bill to expand Pennsylvania’s school choice scholarship program last year, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed it.

This is particularly frustrating given what we know about the impact of school choice on educational outcomes. Where parents get a choice, kids get better grades. According to a review of 33 studies on school choice programs, nearly all of them found that choice improved academic outcomes, even at public schools.

Studies have also shown that educational choice boosts test scores, high school graduation rates and college enrollment.

These results are not a surprise. Parents know better than bureaucrats where their child can be best educated, and competition leads to better outcomes for everyone.

I’ve witnessed it firsthand in my home state of Indiana. As Governor of the Hoosier State, we expanded Indiana’s school choice program and made it one of the largest in America, transforming thousands of lives across our state.

And I’ve witnessed it firsthand in the Nation’s Capital. In just his first few months in office, President Trump reauthorized the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which is the only federally funded voucher program in America. Under his leadership, enrollment in the program is already up by nearly 50 percent.

As part of his historic tax cuts, President Trump reformed our tax laws to let parents use 529 college savings accounts to send their kids to a quality school at every level of education.

This year, we are continuing to fight to expand educational freedom in this country. The President has proposed a program called Education Freedom Scholarships, which would provide $5 billion for state-based school choice programs all across America.

Under the President’s plan, private donors would receive a tax credit for contributions to this scholarship fund, adding billions of dollars to educational advancement without using taxpayer dollars.

We estimate that the President’s plan would give educational freedom to one million American children.

This program holds out hope for those 50,000 Pennsylvania families who have been forced to wait for scholarships, and for children from underserved communities who are trapped in failing schools.

The President’s plan has more than 120 supporters in Congress, including Congressmen Scott Perry, Daniel Meuser, John Joyce, Fred Keller, and Senator Pat Toomey.

The President’s plan also has the strong support of the American people. Polling commissioned by the school choice advocacy group American Federation for Children showed that 78 percent of Americans support the legislation.

As a father and the proud husband of a schoolteacher, I know that education can have a transformational impact on a child’s life.

And as the President said this week we must make “sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American dream.”

School choice is an idea whose time has come. It’s time for Pennsylvania’s leaders, including Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey, to give Pennsylvania families the freedom to decide where their kids go to school.

Mike Pence is Vice President of the United States.

Mike Pence, For the Inquirer