School Choice Scholarships Expand Opportunity for All Students

Mitch Pearlstein and American Experiment have led the quest for real school choice since Mitch founded the Center 27 years ago. We applaud the great work Mitch has done, and because of his efforts, the Center is hopeful Minnesota will give students and parents more voice and choice in the near future.

Commentary by Reynolds-Anthony Harris in the Star Tribune shows he is hopeful, too. (Harris is part of the Minnesota Harvest Initiative and also supports Opportunity for All Kids (OAK), chaired by Mitch, in its school choice campaign.)

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We [Harvest Initiative] believe that giving parents and students a choice about where to go to school is a powerful tool to improve education. I love public schools, but unfortunately results show that not all students are getting the education they need in order to succeed.

I believe that the students who need choices most — often minority and disadvantaged students — deserve an opportunity to receive a great education at the school of their choice.

There are many ways to make this a reality for students, and Minnesota has the opportunity to give more young people access to the best educational setting.

The Minnesota Harvest Initiative is educating parents about ways we can improve access to good schools. One measure is legislation that is included in the tax bills passed recently by the Minnesota House and Senate called “Opportunity Scholarships.”

Under the legislation, opportunity scholarships would be available to low-and middle-income children to attend a school of their choice. The scholarships would be funded through tax-advantaged private contributions made to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations with 501(c)3 status, and must be approved by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

These would be private contributions, made to private nonprofits, helping remove financial barriers for students to attend private schools. The proposal would not take any funding away from the more than nearly $18 billion being spent on K-12 public schools in Minnesota…

School choice is crucial to educational excellence and equity. It’s time to bring life-changing opportunities to all students. And it’s time for both the Legislature and Governor Dayton to make this a priority.

Minnesota has traditionally been a leader in school reform, but we have fallen behind. As a result, our state has the largest achievement gap between white students and minorities in the country. That is a crisis of the will that needs to be addressed right now.

We are hopeful that the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton will listen to the voices of minority parents from across our community who are standing together to help our children access the best school for them through opportunity scholarships. Opportunity Scholarships are a lifeline to our kids drowning in mediocrity.