NOTE: This statement was written during the 2022 legislative session which has now concluded. Although the bill died in committee, the Catholic Conference was a strong supporter of the bill and testified in support of its passage.
The Colorado Catholic Conference supports SB22-039, a bill that will help students receive the education they need to thrive.
SB 39 would create a Hope Scholarship Program to empower families with the ability to pursue the education options best suited for their childrens’ individual learning needs and aspirations. The scholarship would be delivered to eligible families through a state-supervised spending account with which families can fully customize their child’s education. Think of this as an education-version of a Health Savings Account, where families are put in charge of some of the funds allocated for their child’s public education through their family’s tax dollars.
With the Hope scholarship, families could use their childrens’ scholarship toward online learning, private tutoring, physical and occupational therapy, private school tuition, before and after school programs, summer school, and other allowable uses.
Hope Scholarships would be considered constitutional under Colorado’s Blaine amendment – they are constitutional under Arizona’s with virtually the same Blaine language—and it is also constitutional under the US Constitution because it gives parents direct control over their child’s education funds, allowing them to choose from a wide range of learning options to tailor their child’s education to their child’s unique educational needs. This means that the parents decide the best educational setting for their own child.
All children deserve a chance at a great education, regardless of socioeconomic status. The pandemic years have shown us that families of 58,000 Colorado students will do anything for their children to receive the education that works best for them. At its heart, educational choice is simply the idea that all parents, regardless of their financial means, should enjoy the freedom to choose where and how their children are educated. Without it, the only parents who can choose are parents with the financial means to do so. That is why this education opportunity is a social justice issue.
Additionally, the Hope Scholarships funding through the budget stabilization factor will ensure that it saves the state money and gives all students – in public schools and on Hope scholarships– that education opportunity.
Education opportunity scholarships, like the Hope scholarship is not a new idea. 76 programs like this exist in 32 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico serving over 622,000 students. Colorado is falling behind other states in providing new opportunities in education.
SB 39 will ensure that Colorado children are able to receive the best education for their unique learning needs and aspirations.