Bill Description: Senate Bill 1161 would expand the Empowering Parents grant program to add a tuition grant component. This would give up to 2,000 students $6,000 per year that they could use to offset the cost of tuition at a nonpublic school or to hire a certified teacher.
Does the bill expand the existing government monopoly on education and shrink family and student choice or agency? (-) Conversely, does the bill expand the ability for families and students to choose the educational options that best meet their needs free of government intervention or coercion? (+)
Senate Bill 1161 would expand the Empowering Parents grant program to add a tuition grant component. This would give participating students $6,000 per year to use to offset the cost of tuition at a nonpublic school or to hire a certified teacher. By giving students money to attend private or micro schools, Senate Bill 1161 would expand families’ ability to choose the educational option that works best for their child.
In addition, the bill would add transportation costs as an eligible expense under the Empowering Parents micro grant program. Funds could be used for mileage reimbursements, public transportation, or rideshares.
Does the bill finance education based on the student rather than the institution? (+) Conversely, does the bill finance education based on an institution or system? (-)
Senate Bill 1161 would finance education based on the student by allocating $6,000 in state funding to each participating student, which can be used toward private school tuition or to hire a certified teacher.
Senate Bill 1161 would increase spending on the existing public education system by $30 million annually. To date, the Empowering Parents program has been funded using federal COVID-relief dollars (ARPA funds), but the governor has proposed funding the program through an ongoing appropriation of $30 million annually. This increases spending within the public education system. While the tuition grants save state funds by allowing the state to spend less per student than it would if that student attended an existing public school, the micro grant program does not enable a student to leave an existing public school and therefore increases state spending per student in the existing government-controlled monopoly.
Does the bill decrease barriers to entry for teachers and other education professionals or services, thus incentivizing entrepreneurship and increasing the supply of options for education services in the marketplace? (+) Conversely, does the bill create barriers to entry into the education marketplace? (-)
Senate Bill 1161 would remove barriers to entry to the education marketplace by decentralizing the public education monopoly through creating tuition grants, which allow a portion of state dollars to follow students to the nonpublic school families choose. Families could also choose to use their funds to hire a certified teacher and form their own micro school. Passing Senate Bill 1161 would incentivize more innovation by encouraging education entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace and provide higher quality products at a lower price.
Senate Bill 1161 would create a barrier to entry for excellent educators by requiring teachers to obtain state certification if they wish to work for a homeschooling family or a micro school that receives state funding through its students. State certification requirements exacerbate teacher shortages and decrease teacher quality by creating a barrier to entry to the teacher labor market for intelligent and motivated individuals.
Does the bill create more transparency or accountability in public education institutions? (+) Conversely, does the bill reduce transparency and accountability in such institutions? (-)
Senate Bill 1161 would promote accountability in public educational institutions by requiring parents to select their preferred nonpublic school through an online platform and facilitating direct payments to education service providers. Tuition grants will be dispensed quarterly. Parents who misuse tuition grants would be prevented from reapplying and could be referred to the office of the attorney general for investigation.
Senate Bill 1161 would also increase transparency by requiring the State Department of Education to report to the Legislature, after a four-year interval, the program’s sustainability, student outcomes, and recommended improvements.
Does the bill reinforce the idea of equal treatment under the law, merit, individual responsibility, personal agency, and expectations of academic excellence? (+) Conversely, does the bill allow for any type of discrimination against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group for any purpose on the basis of race, sex, color, economic class, ethnicity, national origin, geographic area, legacy status, or other identity group? (-)
Under the program envisioned by Senate Bill 1161, the State Department of Education would prioritize low-income families when awarding tuition grants, although other families could apply. School choice programs should not discriminate against students on the basis of economic class. Students are fully funded in existing public schools regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Senate Bill 1161 would allow only 2,000 students to participate in the tuition grant program. After the cap is reached, other students would not receive a grant. All students deserve equal opportunity to access the educational environment or provider that works best for them.
Does the bill protect freedom of speech in teaching or learning? (+) Conversely, does the bill restrict freedom of speech in teaching or learning? (-)
Senate Bill 1161 would protect the free speech rights of nonpublic schools by providing that the legislation would not affect the independence of these schools to teach according to their creed or beliefs.