This week, Americans are celebrating National School Choice Week, a time to raise awareness about the educational options available to families and to advocate for giving them even more choice. A quality education is a right for every child, every family, and every community, but providing it requires us to acknowledge that every child is different — which is why families should have a variety of options when deciding how to educate their children.
School choice is about providing the best opportunities for our children to get the skills and knowledge they need to prepare them for successful, productive lives. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, from open enrollment in traditional public schools and public charter schools, to state-level tuition tax credits and education savings accounts that enable children to attend private and religious schools of their parents’ choosing, to empowering parents with the option of homeschooling. The common thread linking all of these diverse options is the fundamental principle that we must give all students — both the successful and the struggling — the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is effective, motivating, and challenging for them as individuals.
This year, which saw important school-choice victories in Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida, I am proud to have contributed to the fight to ensure a quality education for all children. As part of Congress’s tax-reform legislation, I introduced the Student Opportunity Amendment, which allows families to utilize the already popular 529 college savings accounts to also save tax-free K–12 tuition money for all public, private, and religious institutions.
The Student Opportunity Amendment, which passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump, significantly expands the uses of the 529 program. Today, a total of 13 million 529 accounts have been set up, with assets totaling nearly $300 billion. Working-class and middle-income parents in Texas are the largest group of 529 consumers, utilizing the tax advantages of the accounts to help save for their children’s university expenses. Thanks to the Student Opportunity Amendment, all of these parents will now also be able to access up to $10,000 a year for each child’s K–12 expenses as well — allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets while furthering their children’s educational opportunities.
However, despite these successes, we still have a long way to go.
Millions of children across our nation continue to find themselves trapped in failing schools, isolated from the educational opportunities they need in order to climb out of poverty and up the economic ladder. The one-size-fits-all approach to education that is enforced in our school systems fails to provide parents with the option to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs. A child’s educational opportunities should not be limited by their zip code or their socioeconomic status.
As this National School Choice Week draws to a close, we must continue fighting to ensure that all students have the opportunity to receive a quality education. We must press forward in the mission to open all doors, so that our children can get good jobs, provide for their families, and achieve their dreams. We must fight for the children of working-class families, who are unable to afford a private education and remain trapped in failing school systems simply because of where they live. And we must fight for the children with special needs, whose parents are denied the option to choose the educational programs that work best for them.
School choice is not a partisan issue. It is about families of all political leanings simply wanting what is best for their children’s future. We can’t allow children to fall behind because they come from single-parent families, or neighborhoods that are struggling, or rural regions of our country. We must take swift action to take decision-making power out of the hands of faceless administrators and give it back to parents and students.
I am proud to serve as an advocate of the school-choice movement for all students in Texas and across the country, and I urge my colleagues at the local, state, and federal levels to join me in working to provide each and every American child a better future.
— Ted Cruz is a U.S. senator from Texas.