The Wyoming Legislature is considering a new school choice bill, winning the support the House speaker who shelved a previous version of the bill.
The new bill would provide low-income students with an education savings account (ESA) of $5,000 to pay for private school tuition and other education related expenses like curriculum, tutoring and transportation.
Half the budgeted money would go to K-12 students while the other half would be designated for preschoolers.
The Joint Education Committee approved the bill in November.
Despite being a deeply red state, Wyoming hasn’t passed any meaningful school choice measures into law.
In February, House Speaker Albert Sommers effectively killed a school choice bill by not allowing it to be voted on.
However, Sommers has indicated his support for the updated bill.
“In my opinion, what makes this bill really good is the fact that we bring in early childhood,” he told the committee, reported local media.
“I’ve come to believe that if we are funding education, whatever means, it’s probably worth doing,” Sommers added. “Educating children by public or private dollars, I think it’s worth doing.”
Courtney Ladenberger, who sends her child to a private Catholic school in the state, spoke out in support of the measure.
“Although my husband and I made sacrifices to provide a private education for our children, there are so many others that can’t make those first steps through the door of a school due to financial constraints,” she said. “Why should not all Wyoming families have a choice?”
However, Tate Mullen, government relations director for the Wyoming teachers’ union, claimed the measure was unconstitutional and unnecessary.
“The intent [of the state constitution] is not to provide a multitude of options,” he claimed.
Teachers’ unions nationwide have fought school choice tooth and nail with limited success, even as traditional public schools are seeing worsening academic outcomes for students.