Where Governors Stand on School Choice 2014

With the 2014 elections over—well, almost over—those interested in school choice may be wondering what the results mean for that education reform policy.

Although news headlines have been focused primarily on the U.S. Senate, we wanted to take a closer look at the results from this year’s 36 state gubernatorial races given that education is—and always should be—a local issue.

Of course, just because a governor supports or opposes private school choice does not guarantee a proposal’s success or failure. After all, we’ve seen supportive governors veto school choice legislation and we’ve seen opposed governors’ vetoes overridden.

Still, a governor’s position serves as a likely indicator of what might happen if a school choice proposal reached his or her desk.

Still, a governor’s position serves as a likely indicator of what might happen if a school choice proposal reached his or her desk.

Note: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia are not included in this list, as there were no gubernatorial races in those states.

So, without further delay, here is where the nation’s newest and re-elected governors stand, based on their quotes, reports, and/or actions taken, on private school choice:

Alabama: Robert Bentley (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Bentley signed two pieces of private school choice legislation into law in 2013.

Alaska: Governor not yet determined.

Arizona: Doug Ducey (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

According to the Arizona Republic, “Ducey said he supports allowing students at failing schools to use the per-student assistance the state provides at a private school of their choice.”

Arkansas: Asa Hutchinson (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

According to Gov.-elect Hutchinson’s website:

“Parents have to make decisions about their children’s education and particularly what school each should attend. Many times the decision will be different for each child depending upon the child’s unique needs and interests. Asa’s family is an example of choice in education. Susan and Asa sent their children to public schools, private schools, parochial schools and they home schooled for a time as well. That is choice in education at work and the choices Asa and Susan made reflect the needs and interests of each child.”

“We have to recognize that parents may make different choices in education for their children. Some parents will choose home school, private school or public charter schools as an alternative to the traditional public school setting. It is important that these options are available even though our tax-payer resources go to the public school system including public charter schools.” – Asa Hutchinson

However, according to the Huffington Post, Hutchinson does not support private school choice vouchers.

California: Jerry Brown (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

There are conflicting reports on whether Gov. Brown supports or opposes private school choice. Notably, the governor has never seen a private school choice proposal reach his desk.

Colorado: John Hickenlooper (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Gov. Hickenlooper supports public school choice, as evidenced by his advocacy for charter schools. The governor’s position on private school choice, however, is not as clear. No such proposal has ever arrived on his desk.

Connecticut: Dan Malloy (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? NO

In late October, Gov. Malloy told the Jewish Ledger, “Let me be very clear – I’m opposed to (private school choice) vouchers. I have not supported them.”

Florida: Rick Scott (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Scott signed the nation’s second education savings account (ESA) program into effect this year as well as an expansion to the nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program.

Georgia: Nathan Deal (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

In 2013, Gov. Deal approved a funding expansion to the state’s private school choice tax-credit scholarship program.

Hawaii: David Ige (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

On Gov.-elect Ige’s website, no mention is made of private school choice. However, the candidate did note his support of public school choice (via charter schools): “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.”

Notably, this year, Ige did oppose a preschool proposal because it would allow parents to send public funds to private providers.

Idaho: Butch Otter (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Although Gov. Otter declared his support for National School Choice Week, a tax-credit scholarship proposal that has been moving through the legislature has yet to reach his desk.

Illinois: Bruce Rauner (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov.-elect Rauner declared on his website: “Whether traditional, charter, or private, Illinois’ children need access to more quality choices in education.”

Iowa: Terry Branstad (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Branstad signed an expansion to the state’s tax-credit scholarship program while in office.

Kansas: Sam Brownback (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

This year, Gov. Brownback signed a school funding bill that included a private school choice tax-credit scholarship program.

Maine: Paul LePage (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. LePage has introduced a proposal creating private school choice vouchers. And, according to his website, “The Governor has said, ‘School choice should not be just for the wealthy elite. All Maine students deserve an equal chance of success whether they live in Cape Elizabeth or Fort Kent. This is how we break the cycle of generational poverty for Maine’s children.’ That is why he has supported reforms to create choices for students and parents.”

Maryland: Larry Hogan (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

According to the Catholic Review, “(Gov.-elect) Hogan called himself ‘a strong supporter’ of the implementation of a tax credit (scholarship program) for businesses that donate to nonprofit organizations that assist lower-income students, and said he would include a measure to create it in his administration’s first legislative package. Hogan also supports state funding for programs assisting nonpublic schools with textbook and technology costs, as well as aging infrastructure improvements.”

Massachusetts: Charlie Baker (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Although Gov.-elect Baker made no mention of private school choice, his website did note that “As Governor, Charlie will work with the legislature to increase the number of charter schools and remove the arbitrary restrictions on the number of students who can attend them in the lowest performing districts.”

In 2010, Baker said “We should expand public school choice by increasing the number of charter, magnet, and alternative schools, because meeting the promise of our next generation begins with strengthening Massachusetts’ public schools.”

Michigan: Rick Snyder (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Gov. Snyder has been a vocal supporter of public school choice; however, his position on supporting private options is not clear. Also, no such proposal has ever made it to Gov. Snyder’s desk.

Minnesota: Mark Dayton (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? NO

In 1998, Gov. Dayton said, “While I support charter schools and open enrollment, I am opposed to vouchers.” The governor also vetoed an education finance bill in 2011 because it contained a private school voucher proposal.

Nebraska: Pete Ricketts (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Gov.-elect Rickets “says (although) vouchers and charter schools aren’t at the top of his agenda, he makes no bones about liking both ideas.”

Nevada: Brian Sandoval (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Sandoval has been very public on his support for private school choice. On his website, the governor notes his backing of “a school choice scholarship funded through business tax incentives that will provide lower income students with more freedom to attend private and religious schools.”

New Hampshire: Maggie Hassan (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? NO

Gov. Hassan made repealing the state’s private school choice tax-credit scholarship program a focus. According to Hassan, “The voucher tax credit is bad public policy for public education in New Hampshire and our taxpayers, diverting millions of dollars in taxpayer money with no accountability or oversight to religious and private schools.”

New Mexico: Susana Martinez (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

In 2010, Gov. Martinez was public in her support for private school choice: both vouchers for students with special needs and tax-credit scholarships.

New York: Andrew Cuomo (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Cuomo has been publicly supportive of a private school choice tax-credit scholarship program. Recently, he wrote the following: “In addition, I will continue to work for the passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit that would provide a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit for any person or business that makes a donation to public schools or private scholarships for students attending non-public schools. This bill would encourage charitable donations to non-profit organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend a non-public school or a non-resident public school that best meets their needs.”

Ohio: John Kasich (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Kasich signed into law a voucher program for students with special needs in 2011. In 2013, Gov. Kasich approved an expansion of the state’s EdChoice voucher program to include all low-income students statewide.

Oklahoma: Mary Fallin (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

In 2011, Gov. Fallin signed the state’s second private school choice program—a tax-credit scholarship plan—into law.

Oregon: John Kitzhaber (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Gov. Kitzhaber’s position on private school choice is not certain, as no such proposal has ever reached his desk. However, the governor has been a supporter of public school choice through charter schools.

Pennsylvania: Tom Wolf (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Gov.-elect Wolf’s position on private school choice tax-credit scholarships appears to be supportive, but mixed, as detailed in a story from the Jewish Exponent: “‘The EITC (tax-credit scholarship) program has been an effective tool to invest in education and support student learning in a multitude of educational settings,’ a Wolf campaign staffer stated in an email to the Exponent. ‘While Tom will not interfere with the EITC program, ensuring that every student has access to a high quality public school will be his top priority as governor.'”

Rhode Island: Gina Raimondo (D)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

There is no mention of school choice in Gov.-elect Raimondo’s “Vision for K-12 Education.”

South Carolina: Nikki Haley (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

In 2013, Gov. Haley signed into law the state’s first private school choice program—a tax-credit scholarship for students with special needs.

South Dakota: Dennis Daugaard (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? NO

In 2013, Gov. Daugaard opposed a private school choice program. In response to a legislative proposal creating such a program, a spokesman for the governor said “This voucher mechanism is concerning because it shifts public funds away from public schools, and it does so in a way that gives larger vouchers to more affluent families.”

Tennessee: Bill Haslam (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

For several years now, Gov. Haslam has included a voucher proposal in his education platform. However, the plan has consistently stalled in the legislature.

Texas: Greg Abbott (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

It is unclear if Gov.-elect Abbott is a supporter of private school choice. According to a 2013 Texas Tribune article: Abbott said his “focus is not on vouchers at all.” Abbott’s opponent claimed he was in support of vouchers; however, Abbott stated his focus is on public school choice, such as charter schools.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? YES

Gov. Walker signed into law an expansion of the nation’s most high-profile voucher program (in Milwaukee). He also approved the creation of Racine’s voucher program, a statewide voucher program for low-income families, and a statewide tax deduction for families choosing private schools.

Wyoming: Matt Mead (R)

Private School Choice Supporter? UNCLEAR

Gov. Mead has been supportive of public school choice—through charter schools. His only known action on private school choice came in a 2014 proclamation for National School Choice Week.

This story will be updated as more gubernatorial races are decided. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Friedman Foundation does not endorse or oppose any candidates running for local, state, or federal office.