One of the few education promises President-elect Trump made on the campaign trail was to launch a major new federal initiative on school choice. By nominating choice advocate Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of education, he indicated that he was serious about it. Yet the odds of getting a major program through Congress are daunting, what with conservative Republicans committed to limiting the federal role in education and cutting spending, with Democrats strongly tied to the teachers unions—and with the main federal K–12 programs only recently reauthorized.
As the 115th Congress begins, and the new Administration prepares to take office, what options might policymakers consider as they design a new initiative on private school choice? The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution hosted Representative Luke Messer, one of Congress’s leading advocates for parental choice, and a panel of policy experts on January 18th to discuss the road ahead. Panelists discussed the pros and cons of three distinct approaches to promoting choice: a new competitive grant program; allowing Title I and/or IDEA funds to follow children to their schools of choice, including private schools; and adapting the tax code to stimulate additional support for state-created private-school scholarship programs.