Will school choice bills gain traction at the Statehouse?

Via Idaho Ed News

Many school choice advocates believe they have momentum on their side.

Donald Trump has pledged to push for school choice. Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, unabashedly supports vouchers, educational savings accounts and charter schools.

But while the 2016 presidential election could elevate the school choice issue — on Capitol Hill and at the state level — the effects at the Idaho Statehouse are tougher to gauge. One of Idaho’s most visible school choice advocates isn’t expecting big changes during the 2017 session, which opens Monday. And a key legislator would just as soon put the issue on hold until 2018.

The national landscape

Trump didn’t say much about K-12 during the presidential election, but one of his concrete proposals was a $20 billion school choice initiative . Trump wants to use the $20 billion to bankroll a block grant program that encourages states to put matching money into vouchers or school choice.

And if actions speak louder than words, then Trump’s Nov. 23 action was loud and clear . In choosing DeVos for his cabinet, Trump chose someone who has been active both in GOP circles and in the school choice movement. With a Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for Jan. 11, DeVos faces close scrutiny from Senate Democrats and teachers’ unions.

Still, her nomination has had something of a trickle-down effect in statehouses from Virginia to Kentucky to Texas. “There’s an energy within the school choice community where they’ll be pushing a lot of legislation around the country,” Josh Cunningham, a senior education policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told POLITICO.com .

But this may not translate at the Idaho Statehouse — even when Republicans control the governor’s office, and 88 of 105 seats in the Legislature

“The fact of the matter is, this is a state issue,” said Terry Ryan, CEO of BLUUM , a Boise-based school choice advocacy group.