Scholarship Bill Introduced in Delaware

Published November 1, 1997

Citing state spending that is now 22 percent above the national average and SAT scores that continue to fall, Delaware state representative Deborah H. Capano is convinced that, after 15 years of education reform, it’s time to put the power of education reform where it belongs: with parents. Under legislation introduced by the Delaware Republican earlier this year, the state would provide annual scholarships of up to $2,700 per child to offset the cost of private school tuition.

Public education’s record is mediocre at best, says Capano, despite countless reform attempts and despite funding commitments that have dedicated one-third of the state’s budget to public education every year for the past twenty years. She adds that her scholarship program “can turn things around by providing Delaware families the full choice in education they deserve.”

“In an arena that arguably could be called the most important in our culture, the government makes every single decision for most families,” she observes. “The government decides when you go to school, where you go, what you read, what you learn, when you leave, and virtually every other matter.”

The plan provides for a state scholarship to be paid annually to the parents or guardians of any Delaware student who attends an accredited non-public school, provided that the student’s home school district agreed to participate in the program. Individual scholarships would vary in amount, depending upon family income, with a maximum scholarship of $2,700.

Scholarships could be used only to defray tuition and non-religious education costs, with the added restriction that for students attending religious schools, scholarships would be reduced by 10 percent. Scholarship students would continue to be included in their local district enrollment count so that per-pupil state aid to the public schools would not fall.

Taxpayers recognize that more money isn’t the answer to education reform, says Capano, noting that the people of northern Delaware have turned down one tax increase after another.

“Reform cannot come from the good intentions of government,” she argues. “It can only come from the changes that consumer choice, competition, and free markets will bring.”

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].