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  • Nov 08 2018

Where Governors Stand on School Choice 2018

There were 36 gubernatorial races in the 2018 cycle, and Democrats picked up a total of seven seats nationwide.

Wondering where the nation’s newly elected or re-elected governors stand on education reform—and specifically on the issue of private school choice? We’ve collected their public and campaign statements here. 

Keep in mind that past support or opposition to K-12 private school choice does not mean a proposal will succeed or fail, but a governor’s position serves as a likely indicator of what will happen if a bill reaches his or her desk. 

If you think one of our ratings is incorrect, please contact media@edchoice.org, and we’ll take a look and review our information.  

ALABAMA 

Kay Ivey (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Gov. Ivey supported school choice in a 2018 Alabama Policy Institute candidate survey: “As president of the Board of Education, an intimate knowledge of the education system is critical to our children’s success and ultimately the success of this great state. As a former teacher, I appreciate the benefits of school choice. School choice provides healthy competition, and competition can effectively raise student performance, teacher attendance, and financial management. As a conservative leader, I will always support and empower local administrators.” 

ALASKA 

Mike Dunleavy (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Dunleavy served as both a state senator and an elected school board member in the Mat-Su School District before his election as Governor. Prior to that, he worked as a teacher in rural Alaska for 19 years. Dunleavy was the sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 9, which would have allowed for school choice programs to be utilized in Alaska. He is often cited as a school choice supporter and champion.   
  • Before his election, Dunleavy told the Anchorage Daily News, “I was a strong advocate in the Senate for giving parents the flexibility to achieve the best outcome for their children. Parents know their children’s unique educational needs; there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. With that said, my focus will be on improving outcomes in our public schools, where I served for decades as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board member.” 

ARIZONA 

Doug Ducey (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Educational choice has been a top priority for Ducey since taking office. “It will be a first principle of my agenda that schools and choices available to affluent parents must be open to all parents, whatever their means, wherever they live, period,” he said during his inaugural address in 2015.  
  • As Governor, Ducey signed the universal expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which would have allowed any student to use an ESA account to pay for private school tuition or for other educational expenses. The expansion was rolled back in the 2018 election, but Ducey easily won re-election. 

ARKANSAS 

Asa Hutchison (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • In 2015, Hutchison signed the Succeed Scholarship Program, the state’s first private school program for special needs students. He openly supports charter schools, but his public record on private school choice is mixed. 
  • Hutchison opposed the Arkansas Parental Empowerment for Education Choice Act of 2017, which would have allowed nonprofits to establish education savings accounts for eligible students funded by tax-deductible donations. “I will oppose the bill based upon that revenue hit because that’s not in budget,” he said. “I’m a strong proponent of choice. As everyone knows, I’ve had children go to public school, private school, Christian school, homeschool, and those are choices that parents make, but we have an obligation for the public school system of Arkansas to make sure it’s adequately funded.” 
  • At a National School Choice Week event in 2018, Hutchison told the crowd that “[c]hoice in education is important as a matter of freedom; it is important as a matter of competition. But the end result is that choice is important for the children of our state and their abilities to succeed in the education environment.” 

CALIFORNIA 

Gavin Newsom (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR

  • Newsom used to support charter schools publicly, but now his support is unclear. His 2018 platform promised expansions of community schools, but does not specify which types of schools. It is unclear whether he supports private school choice measures. 
  • At an East Area Progressive Democrats meeting in Los Angeles in September 2017, Newsom said, “I’m not interested in the stale and raging debate about which side, which camp you’re on – are you with the charter people, are you anti-charter, are you with the teachers, are you anti-teacher. I’ve been hearing that damn debate for ten damn years. With all due respect, I got four kids. I have an eight year old, second grade. I have a five, three and a one year old. I’m not gonna wait around until they’ve all graduated to resolve whether Eli Broad was right or whether or not the CTA was wrong. I’m not interested in that debate. I’m interested in shaping a different conversation around a 21st century education system that brings people together, that could shape public opinion, not just here in the state, but could shape an agenda more broadly across the country, particularly in a time of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump. We need that kind of leadership.” 

COLORADO 

Jared Polis (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • Polis is a former State Board of Education member who founded two charter schools for homeless youth and new immigrants. He sends at least one of his children to private school.  
  • The Colorado Independent reported him saying, “Parents value choice in public education, and districts and charter schools offer a variety of options. What I care about is quality. I do not support vouchers going to unaccountable private schools and have opposed for-profit education throughout my entire career. I believe that public charter schools should be held accountable to the same budgetary, academic, and financial transparency as neighborhood public schools.” 
  • Following his election, Polis named several education reformers to his transition team: “The Polis education team — one of seven teams whose members were announced Friday — includes Jen Walmer, director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a political group that advocates for charter schools. Some education-policy liberals accuse the group of seeking to restrict teacher unions. Another is former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican advocate for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools and formerly a member of the state board of education.”

CONNECTICUT 

Ned Lamont (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • In a 2006 interview on The Randi Rhodes Show, Lamont said this in response to a question about his perspective on school vouchers: “One, I believe in a strong community public school system. Anything that distracts from that is a step in the wrong direction and does a disservice to our kids. And two, we’ve got to get the community involved in our schools. We need more parents, we need more coaches, we need more drama students, more drama instructors to help these kids, get them back into the classroom, to get them to believe that they can do it. We really are not doing that right now for our kids.” 
  • It is unclear where he stands on private school choice now in 2018. 

FLORIDA 

Ron DeSantis (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • DeSantis’s campaign website states his intention to expand choice efforts in Florida: “Florida’s education success story was made possible by allowing for innovation in education coupled with choice for families and public accountability. Ron DeSantis will build on these successful reforms and not allow our education system to slide backwards. Ron DeSantis will work tirelessly to make Florida a world-class leader on education.” 

GEORGIA 

Brian Kemp (R)* 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Kemp is a strong supporter of educational choice. His campaign website clearly states his position: “As a State Senator, I co-sponsored one of the early charter school bills. During my two terms in office, I fought to enhance educational outcomes through school choice. As governor, I will build on that record by doubling the SSO tax credit, supporting equitable charter school funding, and piloting an ESA program with military families. School choice means trusting parents and putting students first. As a father of 3 teenage daughters, I never want my children—or anyone’s children—to be trapped in a failing school or a bad situation. We must always have an education system that trusts parents and allows us to decide what’s best for our kids.” 

HAWAII 

David Ige (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • On Ige’s campaign website, he does not mention private school choice. However, Ige has noted his support of public school choice (via charter schools) on his past campaign websites: “As chair of the House Education Committee, David introduced an omnibus education bill that gave schools more authority and autonomy by emphasizing Children First. He has also helped pass legislation that allows fiscal flexibility, ensures assessment and accountability, encourages school innovation, and improves our school facilities. David also authored the first laws creating charter schools in Hawaii.” 
  • In 2014, Ige did oppose a preschool proposal because it would allow parents to send public funds to private providers. 
  • This year, his campaign has focused on expanding support and options to students in higher education. 

IDAHO 

Brad Little (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Little does not support private school choice and has said he is skeptical of a tax-credit scholarship program that has previously passed in the state assembly.   
  • Little told The74Million.org during the campaign that “[a]nytime you do anything that moves the amount of money that’s ready to go into the pool for K-12 spending, I’ve always had an issue with. And some of the voucher proposals I’ve seen are pretty significant.” 

ILLINOIS 

J.B. Pritzker (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

In Chalkbeat, Pritzker said, “A quality public education system that improves the well-being of every child and prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow is essential to our state and our future. I oppose diverting public education funds to private schools and I oppose school vouchers.

“We need to impose a moratorium on charter school expansion. With public schools inadequately funded, I oppose taking state money away from public schools for private school tax credits.” 

IOWA 

Kim Reynolds (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • In her 2018 Condition of the State address, Reynolds said, “We have also maintained our commitment to school choice, which offers families the option to teach their values, beliefs, and viewpoints to their children. That’s why my tax reform plan will expand 529 plans to include K-12 education.” 
  • In 2018 Governor Reynolds signed a proclamation for National School Choice week.  

KANSAS 

Laura Kelly (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • In her 2018 questionnaire to the Kansas School Boards Association Governor-elect Kelly stated, “I do not believe that public money should go to support students in private schools, rather those funds should be invested in Kansas’ public education system. Tax credits, vouchers and scholarships to private school students lack oversight and fairness, and should not be a part of Kansas’s education budget. “ 

MAINE 

Janet Mills (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Mills has firmly stated she opposes both private and public school choice: “I firmly oppose taking tax dollars from the public education system to fund new private or charter schools, and I do not support lifting the cap on new charters. The proposal to allow for ten charter schools in Maine was largely based on the premise that these schools would serve as an experiment. So far, the promise of dramatically higher-quality education has yet to materialize, and I believe it would be premature to expand that experiment without positive results.” 

MARYLAND 

Larry Hogan (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • In 2017, when he signed a $1 million increase in the state’s tax credit scholarship program, Hogan stated, “Our administration is proud to support the BOOST Program and to expand it to provide opportunities for even more children again this year.” 

MASSACHUSETTS 

Charles Baker (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has not publicly stated whether he supports or opposes private school choice, but he does support increasing the number of charter schools in the state: “We have 20 years of experience with charter schools that has been proven to be a success.” 

MICHIGAN 

Gretchen Whitmer (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Whitmer’s K-12 agenda was largely based on opposition to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a Michigan native and longtime school choice advocate. Whitmer wrote in an op-ed piece before the election: “A generation ago, Michigan led the world in public education. This was the state families packed up and moved to because parents knew their children could get a quality education and the skills they needed to get a good-paying job. Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Republicans in Lansing have consistently sided with Betsy DeVos to push an education agenda that includes slashing school funding, expanding unaccountable for-profit managed charter schools, over-emphasizing standardized tests, attacking hard-working educators and adopting a one-size-fits-all approach to education.” 

MINNESOTA 

Tim Walz (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • One of the steps to improve education that Walz outlines on his campaign website is, “Nix vouchers – In order to give Minnesota students the best chance at success, we need to keep funding to our public schools, not diverting it into voucher programs.” 

NEBRASKA 

Pete Ricketts (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Ricketts is a school choice advocate. He has said that his family was able to choose both Catholic and public schools based on what best fit his children’s needs, but not all families can afford to do that. “That’s what every parent should have the opportunity of doing,” he said. “We need to put a system in place to make that possible.” 

NEVADA 

Steve Sisolak (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Sisolak’s campaign website says he, “will work to increase funding, give educators a much-needed raise, and reduce class sizes while fighting against any efforts to divert public funding to private schools.” 

NEW HAMPSHIRE 

Chris Sununu (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Sununu is a strong supporter of private school choice. He supported former Senate Bill 193, which would set up an education savings account program for families and their children. 

NEW MEXICO 

Michelle Graham Lujan (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Lujan did not take a public stance on private school choice in her gubernatorial campaign, but she issued the following statement from her Congressional office after meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in July 2018: “Most troubling is her support for diverting public funds to cover voucher programs that undermine the public school system. I am proud to stand with students and educators in reminding Secretary DeVos of her responsibility to support public school students and help families and communities thrive.” 

NEW YORK 

Andrew Cuomo (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • In 2015, Cuomo promoted a $150-million education tax-credit plan to support low-income families sending their children to private and parochial schools: “By rewarding donations that support public schools, providing tax credits for teachers when they purchase classroom supplies out of pocket, and easing the financial burden on families who send their children to independent, parochial, or out-of-district public schools, we can make a fundamental difference in the lives of students, families and educators across the state.” 
  • Since then, according to Politico, reformers’ high hopes for New York—and Cuomo—have fallen flat: “Cuomo has prioritized other issues and has reconciled with the city teachers’ union ahead of a rumored presidential bid — leaving reformers without their most conspicuous champion.” 

OHIO 

Mike DeWine (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • In his gubernatorial campaign, DeWine did not take a public stance on private school choice.  
  • His campaign education agenda included reducing standardized testing, a more equitable school funding system, increasing access to technology, shared services and more vocational education. 
  • During the campaign, DeWine also proposed new regulations for online charter schools, including a pay-for-performance model for electronic schools that would require course completion testing and competency before the school is paid for a student.  
  • When he was in the U.S. Senate, DeWine was a strong supporter of the D. C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

OKLAHOMA 

Kevin Stitt (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: UNCLEAR 

  • Stitt is a businessman and political newcomer who has not yet taken a public stance on private school choice. 
  • His campaign education agenda included increasing teacher pay, standardizing teacher certification, adopting free market health care benefits, cutting red tape at high-performing schools, streamlining data and simplifying the school funding formula.  

OREGON 

Kate Brown (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • School choice has not historically been an issue in Oregon gubernatorial contests, though the state’s high school graduation rate still lags behind the national average.  
  • Brown’s campaign website states her priorities are “investing in our schools to keep students on track to graduate from high school with a plan for their future—and ready for college, job training, or the world of work.” 

PENNSYLVANIA 

Tom Wolf (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Wolf did not block efforts to increase funding for Pennsylvania’s tax-credit scholarship program, which gives tax credits to businesses that fund private school scholarships. According to news reports, he obtained some of those credits as a business owner. 
  • But Wolf vehemently opposes new school choice programs, including a 2017 plan to make education savings accounts available to students in the state’s lowest-performing districts: “The governor’s spokesman J.J. Abbott said, ‘Governor Wolf opposes vouchers and any program that diverts precious state funding away from Pennsylvania’s public schools. Governor Wolf has fought tirelessly to increase state funding for public education at all levels by more than $800 million to help districts, teachers and students succeed. Taking funding away from public schools would only further the inequity and inadequacy of state funding for local education and could lead to property tax increases, as funding cuts did under the last administration.’” 

RHODE ISLAND 

Gina Raimondo (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • In 2016, Raimondo introduced a plan for more public school choice in Rhode Island. EdWeek reported that “[t]he act would allow traditional public schools to apply to become Empowerment Schools, which would be free of certain regulations and give teachers and administrators more autonomy. Empowerment Schools could choose a special focus, like dual language or science.” The schools would be required to enroll neighborhood students first.  
  • In her first term, she also threatened to veto a bill that would have required local approval for new charter schools to be built or existing ones to expand. “I would veto a bill that had the practical effect of killing charters,” Raimondo said at the time.  

SOUTH CAROLINA 

Henry McMaster (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • On his campaign website, McMaster stated that “[r]obust charter schools allow parents to choose the best educational opportunities for their children. We need more of them, and more transportation options to better facilitate school choice.” 
  • A story in the state’s capital newspaper shortly before the election noted that “McMaster also supports private-school choice and expansion of public-school choice options, proposing in his 2018-19 executive budget more money for public charter schools.” 

SOUTH DAKOTA 

Kristi Noem (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Noem, the state’s first female governor, said “[a]s a conservative, I will protect the rights of parents to choose the educational path that’s best for their child, whether it’s homeschooling, public schooling or a private education.” 
  • The74Million.org reported after the election that “[t]o improve education in the state, [Noem] favors school choice, though South Dakota is one of just a few states without charter schools. State lawmakers approved a program in 2016 that gives insurance companies tax breaks if they donate to private school scholarships. 

TENNESSEE 

Bill Lee (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • In his first speech following his election, Lee said “I believe that Tennessee can be a place where every child can receive a first-rate education. And that’s why when I’m the governor, I’ll be pursuing education reforms that put our students first, working hard to make sure that parents have every option to give their kids a shot at a bright future.” 
  • According to education journalism outlet Chalkbeat, “Lee is a product of public schools who sent his own children to a mix of public, private, and home schools in Williamson County, the state’s most affluent county. On the campaign trail, he praised policies that give parents more school choices and said that vouchers — which use public dollars to pay for private schools — have potential in a state that has repeatedly rebuffed voucher legislation.” 

TEXAS 

Greg Abbott (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • At a National School Choice Week rally in 2017, Abbott told the crowd, “Every parent deserves choices about where they will send their child to school. All these parents know this isn’t a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue. This is a civil rights issue.” 
  • The policy section of the Governor’s official website states: “Education is essential to preserve liberty. We must continue to invest in early education and higher education, and expand school choice in Texas. Our goal is to give teachers the tools and resources they need to help our children succeed.” 

VERMONT 

Phil Scott (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • Vermont is home to the oldest school choice program in America. Launched in 1869, the Town Tuitioning Program provides educational options for students whose towns do not have public schools. The “sending” town pay school tuition directly to the “receiving” school, which can be any public or private, non-religious school in or outside Vermont. 
  • On his campaign website, Scott stated that “The Legislature must also clarify that districts with school choice can preserve it in the event of a consolidation.” 

WISCONSIN 

Tony Evers (D) 

Private School Choice Supporter: NO 

  • Prior to his victory over school choice advocate Scott Walker, Evers served as the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction.  
  • Evers is an ardent opponent of private school choice who pledged to eliminate a voucher program that serves nearly 30,000 Milwaukee children:  
  • In a candidate survey circulated by the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, Evers responded: “Wisconsin’s public schools provide access and opportunity to over 860,000 kids. They have to be our priority. When we aren’t adequately funding our public schools, how can we possibly afford a parallel publicly funded private school system?” 

WYOMING 

Mark Gordon (R) 

Private School Choice Supporter: YES 

  • According to local news coverage, Gordon said in a publicly televised gubernatorial debate shortly before the election that he supports the concept of school choice. His opponent noted in the same debate that “school choice probably isn’t acceptable under current constitution.” 

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