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Democrats kill 'school voucher' bill

Delaware Public Media

The House Education Committee overwhelmingly rejected a proposal Wednesday that would have allowed parents of children with special needs to use state money to pay for private education.



The cash that normally would go to a public school district would instead be put into a bank account that parents can use to pay for tuition, books or for private tutoring if they homeschool their child.

Controversially, parents could also save that money and put it towards college expenses.
“What I see this bill as is sort of a voucher system to subsidize private schools because their enrollment is down," said Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte), one of the eight lawmakers to vote against it.

Hudson argues it’s about expanding choices for kids who aren’t thriving in traditional classrooms.

And several parents or family members backed her up during public comment.

Kathy Morris’s 13-year-old grandson was one of them. After falling behind in public school, he was enrolled in private school with the hope of getting into a New Castle County Vo-Tech school when he’s older.

“We would like to see him become what he would choose to be: a mechanic of some sort, just like his pop pop. This is kind of where we’re going and we’d like to see other parents have this choice as well,” Morris said.

Lobbying groups for teachers, school administrators and school boards all banded together to oppose it, saying they’re worried it would significantly decrease funding for public schools.

Those fears pushed Rep. Harvey Kenton (R-Milford), one of the most reliable, party line voters in the caucus to join with a wall of Democrats in blocking the bill.

"I don’t think there’s a state that does more for it’s special education students," said Kenton, calling it "a step to destroy our public schools."

Should parents have used that money to pay for tuition at a religious private school, some argued it would have violated Delaware's separation of church and state law.

Lawmakers could revive the bill in committee, though that looks unlikely to happen before the session ends in June.