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The School Choice Mandate

A quick glance at the @edreform Twitter feed in the last few weeks reveals a string of school choice programs that have successfully advanced through state legislatures, with little resistance expected from reform-minded governors.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law an expansion of the innovative Education Savings Account (ESA) program, granting eligibility to Native American students living on reservations. Now, Native American families, in addition to families with special needs students, foster care families and military families, can direct funds towards education services using ESAs.

Arkansas became the sixteenth state in the nation with a voucher program. In its first year, the Succeed Scholarship Program will provide up to 100 scholarships for students with special needs.

The Nevada Legislature passed a tax credit-scholarship program for income-eligible students, capped at $5 million for the first year with an automatic escalator clause for each subsequent year. The bill has received public support from Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Mississippi will join Arizona and Florida as the newest state with an ESA program for students with special needs, expected to receive Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature.

What do all of these recent school choice advances have in common?

All are in states where there is a pro-reform governor, according to a November 2014 analysis from Education50. With the exception of Mississippi, governors Arizona, Arkansas and Nevada all had gubernatorial elections in 2014, and each elected governor voiced their commitment to expanding school choice during campaigns.

The progress in these four states is commendable. However, more than half of the 36 gubernatorial elections in 2014 resulted in electing a pro-reform candidate to the governor’s mansion. It’s time for more reform-minded governors to lead with their mandate to increase choice and accountability in schools.

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