Congress Blocks School Choice in New Stimulus Package

Even as the pandemic has exposed the desperate need for disruptions to the calcified public school system, Congress just voted to restrict some of the very creativity that's sorely needed.


Governors are prohibited from using emergency school funding to give families more education options, thanks to a new provision inserted in the 5,600-page bill that Congress passed (without having time to read it) on Monday night.

The new stimulus package includes $2.75 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, a program established by the earlier stimulus bill passed in March, but it comes with new restrictions on how that money can be used. Seemingly in response to the fact that several governors used the first round of GEER funding to launch or expand school choice programs, the new stimulus bill explicitly excludes "vouchers, tuition tax credit programs, education savings accounts, scholarship programs, or tuition assistance programs for elementary and secondary education."

Because why should parents have more educational options for their kids at a time when many traditional public schools are refusing to reopen, right?

"America's students—especially those from lower income, working class, and special needs families who have been most harmed by the pandemic—deserved better," John Schilling, president of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for greater educational choice, said in a statement. The group says the new restrictions on how GEER funding can be used were included in the bill at the behest of teachers' unions.

After it was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed in March, the GEER fund allocated  $3 billion to states "to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the coronavirus national emergency." At the time, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the fund would provide governors with "the opportunity to truly rethink and transform the approach to education during this national emergency and ensure learning continues," and stressed that the funding was meant to help not only traditional public schools but public charter schools and non-public schools too.

In Florida, for example, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) used $30 million of his state's initial GEER funding to stabilize a school choice scholarship fund that helps some families afford private schools. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) used $1.5 million to expand a tax credit scholarship program—a maneuver that the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, calculated would help 800 students offset private tuition costs.

Some states were even more aggressive in expanding options for students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic. In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) used GEER funding to launch a $10 million scholarship program that aims to give more than 1,500 students a chance to afford private education. And South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) used $32 million of the state's $48 million GEER allocation to provide one-time scholarships to 5,000 students.

South Carolina's scholarship program quickly attracted criticism from the state's teachers union, which criticized the governor's decision to help families seek alternative educational options even as it also said schools needed to remain closed. In October, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down McMaster's new scholarship program.

The $2.75 billion in new GEER funding is just a small portion of the $82 billion earmarked for education in the new, $900 billion stimulus package. That overall total includes $54 billion for public schools, $10 billion for child care programs, and $23 billion for higher education.

But restricting how this relatively small bucket of GEER funding can be used seems like a mistake. Even as the pandemic has exposed the desperate need for disruptions to the calcified public school system—and even as more families are opting out of a system that has clearly failed to put students first during this crisis—members of Congress just voted to restrict some of the very creativity that's sorely needed.

NEXT: Justice Department Finds Rampant Sexual Assaults and Constitutional Violations in Country's Largest Women's Prison

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  1. After Zoom call with Nick Gillespie, Sundar Pichai axes permanent “work from home”.

    Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees extending their work-from-home period to next September 1. However, the company says employees should live within a commuting distance to their assigned office, where they are expected to show up three days a week, according to a Q&A viewed by CNBC.

    “Yeah… I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday…”

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  2. Eric, is it not fundamentally dishonest to describe a system which forces me to pay for the education of religious beliefs I vehemently disagree with (for example I think teaching kids that nonbelievers like me will rot in hell for all eternity or that same-sex couples are such abominations that they should be denied basic civil dignities or prevented from adopting foster kids even when they are otherwise qualified is grotesque) as “school choice”?

    1. Eric, is it not fundamentally dishonest to describe a system which forces me to pay for the education of religious beliefs I vehemently disagree with . . . as “school choice”?

      So you oppose public funding for education? Or only funding for education of religious beliefs you disagree with?

      1. The latter. James Madison was clear that to force others to support religion was a violation of free conscience. This makes forced subsidization of religious education, or religious monuments, speech, and church property enhancements fundamentally different.

        1. Wokeism is the religion of the left
          I’d like to stop paying for that destructive religion in schools

          1. ^THIS…. Ask any religious school… It’s not religion it’s ‘fact’! And here’s 1M shady factoids to support it of which not one actually supports it in reality. Ya know like the IPCC panel.

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        2. So there are what, 8 classes in a religious school with one being religion. I assume you’d still be against limiting the subsidy to 7/8 even though the remaining 7 classes are the same material just taught at a higher quality than the public schools classes because it’s the church institution that’s evil.

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        3. Modern schools teach a different theology, such as an infinite number of genders or praise for equity instead of equality. They have also adopted CRT such as adopting the 1619 project. That is far more harmful than a catholic school that has one class accompany regular teaching. So you can leave the choice to parents.

          Then again Dept of Ed should be canned outright.

          At least sarcasmic is happy democrats are getting their way.

          1. Dept of Ed is unconstitutional as it’s not mentioned as a power of the Feds.

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        4. How do you feel about kids going to Notre Dame who got Pell grants?

          1. That the kids are purposely pigeonholed to be purchased slaves by selling dependency puppets by their Gov-Gods who will later collect 1,000x more labor from them than the Pell Grant ever gave them.

      2. If you think we should not be required to pay for religious beliefs that we vehemently disagree with, then you should DEFINITELY oppose all public school funding. While not advocating for a specific deity, public schools today present many topics (history, science, environmentalism, English, etc.) in the progressive religion construct.

        Come to think of it, public schools DO promote a deity — Big Government — the most dangerous God/Goddess of all. And I’m not exaggerating.

        1. At least Big Gov can really smote you, unlike the storybook gods.

    2. The only way the parents can impart that information to the children is if they’re home schooled. Once the children are in public school, the parent’s mouths are tied shut, and no religious beliefs spoken within the confines of the home.

    3. How about I don’t pay for kids that I don’t have? Sounds up your alley.

      1. yeah, studies show that kids do better in school when their parents are involved. and nothing gets parents more involved than charging them tuition.

        1. Exactly. People value things by how much they have to sacrifice to obtain them. It can be money, time, work. Parental involvement is the ONLY thing that correlates with a student’s success in school.

          1. ^Well Said line of comments…

    4. “School choice” means all children are to be taught the same things in the same manner as all other children.

      1. No they are not. The Catholic Church teaches things that I consider monstrous and vile, which I highlighted above such as that homosexuality is such an abomination that otherwise qualifying same-sex couples should be denied the right to adopt foster children. Or how about that contraception is murder or that human suffering is a good thing that brings one closer to god? That is not the same thing.

        1. Now do Marxism.

        2. Most public schools do the same. What’s your point? Adoption of the 1619 project of far and wide at this point sweetie.

        3. And by the way… many public schools already have optional credits for a world religion class.

          Can always tell who the childless ones are.

        4. School choice has nothing to do with religious teaching. It allows a parent to chose to send their child to a private school when the public school in their district is failing the children. Private schools are not all religious.
          One argument for school choice is children taken out of the sometimes violent and oppressive climate of some public schools thrive and do well. It should be about educating children in the best way possible not about unions and political donations.

        5. Nice consistent false characterization of people not fully in lock-step with you, at least you’re consistently vile.

    5. I can only speak from my personal experience but you and no one like you ever came up much in my parochial education. Most I can remember was love the sinner not the sin (regarding homosexuals); and that was mostly in response to AIDS crisis going on and children asking questions about it. Fans of KISS and AC/DC though maybe upset to know I was taught Knights In Satan’s Service and Anti Christ / Devil’s Children were the real names of those bands. But mostly learned the history of the Catholic church (warts and all) and important theology concepts. What I did see was a group of people who loved their children and wanted the best for them as they saw fit.

      Also they aren’t very good at indoctrination, I’m agnostic and a fan of AC/DC (KISS sucks).

      1. It was Hitchens who first noted that the “love the sinner hate the sin” trope was a revolting piece of casuistry. Homosexuals are condemned by religion for their nature. As in they are not just being condemned for what they do (love someone of the same-sex) but also being condemned for what they ARE (homosexual). As Hitchens says so do I: This is disgraceful, it’s inhuman, it’s obscene, and it comes from a clutch of hysterical virgins. who’ve already betrayed their charge in the children of their own church. For shame! For shame!”

        1. “Homosexuals are condemned by religion for their nature. ”

          Cite your source, please; that is a very broad statement.

          1. His source is the burning hatred within him.

        2. Well that’s false. They are condemned for their sins but are told how to repent. The same ire is reserved for all sin. Why do atheists always think they are priests.

          Not even religious but have talked to many lriesrs and rabbis.

      2. “Most I can remember was love the sinner not the sin (regarding homosexuals)”

        Yikes, they actually teach that to kids in schools? I wouldn’t want that taught to my child. LGBT people are not sinners. They’re just people like the rest of us. And I surely wouldn’t want my tax dollars going to a school like that.

    6. Choice seems to mean something different for you then the rest of the world. You apparently think choice only means the ability to choose what you like your money spent on and to hell with what others want.

    7. No, it is not dishonest to describe a program that gives a parents a choice of schools to send their children to as “school choice”

      Next question.

      1. “gives parents a choice of schools” because the government FORCES me to finance it. That is not a “choice” by any sense of the word. Of course, I also do not have a “choice” in regards to subsidizing public education. The clear and obvious difference is the First Amendment guarantees a free conscience right that in James Madison’s words affords me the right to support religion only to the extent I believe is acceptable. Forcing me to pay for others religious education amounts to a government enforced religious assessment. This is not hard or nuanced, calling it a choice is absurd.

        1. In most places, you can avoid subsidizing education by not owning property.

          1. Rent rates will reflect the property taxes the landlord pays.

        2. There is a number of things I disagree that are taught in public school, so that isn’t choice either then. But I still have to pay taxes.

  3. Welp, this is what you get when you gotta pass the bill to find out what’s in it.

    1. Has anyone actually read it? Or is this just a report of what other senior bureaucrats and legislators say is in it?

      1. I was going to make a comment about how I’m continuously in awe and adoring admiration of our tireless, committed political leaders. It would take me weeks or even months just to read one of these bills; yet they read, debate, and reason through dozens of them every year, on top of all their campaigning and proselytizing…

        but I guess y’alls explanation makes more sense. This might shake my steadfast faith in politics.

  4. It’s meaningless. Money is fungible. Whatever grant money would have paid for school choice can make up for regular fund retargeted to pay for school choice.

    1. I was just thinking the same thing.

      1. It was a simple accounting error – – – – – – – –

  5. To be fair, Reason had rna multiple stories, as had the rest of the media, on how funds weren’t managed enough the first time around. Now they are complaining about this bill micromanaging spending. I don’t agree with this decision, but you can’t call for more management and then complain when they manage funds in a manner that impacts one of your pet causes. That is pure tribalism. And exactly what the jackasses and elephants do.

  6. Children must be indoctrinated. Oops, I meant educated.

  7. “Because why should parents have more educational options for their kids at a time when many traditional public schools are refusing to reopen, right?”

    Probably because that’s the whole fucking point.

    Much less should our tax money be used for bullshit religious schools. If you want religion, teach it yourself or use your own money. Talk about indoctrination.

    1. Education….where would you fare better?

      A parochial school run by nuns?

      A public school run by unionized teachers?

      And I’m strictly referring to the “stuff” that results in higher SAT scores.

      1. Most of the religious schools here destroy the public schools. They act as a community demanding parents participate in the schools. The schools do very well. All have pure scholarships from various communities who destroy the public schooling test scores.

      1. The only religion permitted in public schools is Marxism.

        1. Ahem. Gender fluidity.

        2. Ahem. Human Caused and Very Dangerous Global Warming

      2. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. In a free society if parents desire to have their children educated in a religious school the government can’t deny them. It should be required to teach Christian values and principles in schools and especially the inalienable rights which we receive from our Creator that Government can not infringe on. That is teaching Americanism and what our laws, society and culture is based on.

    2. Right, “use your own money” — THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM IS RIGHT THERE.

    3. “If you want religion, teach it yourself or use your own money.” I believe the argument is that, since their children are not using the local school system, then they should receive that money back to pay for private schools they are sending their children to. Of course, if you don’t even have children, you’re still paying for resources at the public schools.

  8. To do otherwise with be racist, misogynistic, and whatever else the Chicago teachers union says.

  9. I watched an interesting interview with Thomas Sowell from the early 1980’s where he was debating a liberal white feminist about school choice. She basically said the poor are too stupid and uneducated to be able to make decisions about their children’s education. They need people liberals with fancy degrees to determine what is best for their kids. This pretty much sums up the ideology behind the liberal agenda. Most people are too dumb to know what is in their own best interests, so it’s up to them, the chosen ones of the ruling class to make the important decisions for all of us. With our consent or without it, makes no difference to them.

    1. That reminds me of something I read awhile back. I can’t remember who wrote it but it certainly seemed appropriate.
      “In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion. Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursuing a deific end.”
      That is why they are intolerant of any disagreement or can easily cheat in an election. They believe they are simply correcting the people that are not capable of voting the right way and doing what is best for them.

      1. Same as Islamists!

      2. Spot on! There are many elements of the current radical left agenda that mirror religious fundamentalism. Especially the aspect that is intolerant of any disagreement and hostile to the concept of individuals choosing what works best for them if it does not align with their beliefs.

    2. I was once told that my refusal to accept the fact that black people were uniquely incapable of navigating the rigors of public life made me a racist.

      1. Any broad statement of that sort is racist, not just yours. People are individuals, and should be treated as such.

        1. Woosh

    3. Excellent explanation of the liberal world.
      Gov-God saviors of “too stupid” peasant slaves.

  10. Best option; any politician who votes on legislation they have not personally read in its entirety is presumed to have resigned and forfeited all accrued pension, and any existing political donations.

  11. This is just more of the left using a crisis as an opportunity. “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”
    Make the bill large enough and submit it during a crisis and others are preoccupied by the problem.

    1. Republicans do it too, in the name of defense, for example.

      1. You might have noticed, if you weren’t such a partisan hack, that defense is one of the Constitutional proper activities of the government, partisan hack.

        1. I comment here often enough that you might have recognized that I am a Trump supporter and simply against big gov, regardless of who does it. Defense bills get larded up, too, whether it is a proper function or not. Do you deny that?

      2. Yes but defense comes nowhere close to expenditures in this bill or even non discretionary spending all of which is promoted by democrats. So don’t go pretending you can cast blame elsewhere on our runaway deficits. Go look in the mirror. I’d you can stand it.

        1. Excess spending is bad by either side. Indeed, the social programs are much, much worse. That doesn’t get defense spending off the hook.

          1. Defense spending is, in some ways, even worse. It gives politicians a military big enough to meddle all over the planet. It produces intelligence agencies that spy on the American people. Remember the worship of Mars after 9/11?

  12. The government is a jealous god.

    1. +1000000 lol…

    2. Yeah. It says so right there in the First Amendment Commandment of the Living Constitution of New Wokestan:

      1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

      Of course, some people–white hillbilly bigots, mostly, clinging bitterly to their superstitions (their guns having been taken)–claim this actually predates our Utopia and has been appropriated here without permission, but these deluded fools also believe that private property exists, that all lives matter and a host of other absurdities. But that’s why we now have reeducation camps, subcontracted to various socially responsible Chinese corporations like the NBA, thank Government.

      1. Oops. Screwed up the html tag–should’ve crossed out “Amendment,” but fuck it. We’re screwed, it’s just a matter of time now.

  13. Off topic. Maybe I’m an old fashioned, Johnny Come Lately foreign libertarian, but don’t pics with kids and people in masks betray libertarian principles?

    On no grounds should a libertarian support mask mandates let along kids in masks.

    That means no a single damn mask should be found on this site.

    But what do I know?

    1. alone

      1. You’re not alone, my fine Canukistan friend. Masks are just another tool of oppression, as well as being both worthless, a contagion risk by themselves, and most of all, a totem representing magical thinking.
        (I know “alone” was a typo fix, lol)

  14. Eric Boehm doesn’t write about “erase the country” topic and actually turns out to be quite a decent article…. Way to go Eric.

  15. Remember that time when only the truly needy received “WELFARE”?

  16. “The group says the new restrictions on how GEER funding can be used were included in the bill at the behest of teachers’ unions.”

    i.e. Democrats.

  17. This law is an outrage. Nearly 6k pages? Are you shitting me? Anybody who votes for this abomination should be primaried, voted out of office, impeached for violating their oath of office, and also required to write an explanation to future generations of Americans who will be born already owing trillions of dollars of debt.
    What the fuck is wrong with this country? Denying education and work to young people, while simultaneously burdening them with huge debt, all to keep the Most Selfish Generation alive for a few more years? Fuck the Boomers.

  18. A two-word explanation “teachers union”.

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