Last week, we covered the likely federal impacts of the 2018 elections. As promised, we’ll now turn our attention to state-level impacts in a few key ACE states.
ACE Scholarships currently serves about 7,000 students across eight states. We don’t expect the elections to have a major impact on parental choice policy in some states, but others have seen some pretty significant shifts that are worth watching. Below you will find a brief overview of the highlights. Wherever you live, it’s always a good time for your elected officials to hear from you. If you’re a parent, student, or educator, take a few minutes to tell your legislators what school choice means to you using the button below.
Colorado has turned from purple to dark blue. The Colorado State Senate changed partisan hands and will now be controlled by Democrats, and Democrats held a strong majority in the already-blue State House of Representatives. With Democrat Jared Polis as governor and every statewide office won by Democrats, conversations about expanded parental choice may be more difficult. That said, the issue of educational opportunity does not and should not fall neatly along partisan battle lines. Support for parental choice policy, and especially for scholarship tax credit programs like those ACE facilitates in two states, remains strong across both political parties nationwide.
Colorado has a very strong public charter sector as well as extensive public school open enrollment, but tens of thousands of students still find themselves unable to access the schools they need. Choice supporters will need to work hard to educate elected officials about why access to private options matters to their communities. A great place to start would be getting familiar with the amazing ACE partner schools in each state legislative district.
The defeat of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach by Democrat Laura Kelly could complicate conversations about expansions to the Kansas scholarship tax credit program, which ACE helps facilitate. Kobach was a strong supporter of the program, but Kelly’s position remains to be seen. The program is one of the most restrictive in the nation when it comes to student eligibility: Scholarship students must be eligible for free lunch (household income of 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines or less) and attend one of the state’s lowest-performing 100 public schools. Partially as a result of these restrictions, the program served just 292 students as of January 2018.
Revisiting student eligibility requirements to bring the program more in line with other programs nationwide could vastly improve its ability to serve Kansas families. In the meantime, ACE will continue working to serve its hundreds of scholarship families who do not participate in the scholarship tax credit program.
Texas saw no major partisan shifts statewide or in either state legislative chamber. However, the margins in a number of key races—including the U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz (R) and Beto O’Rourke (D)—were much closer than many had anticipated. Whether those margins are evidence of a coming political shift or the result of a temporary surge is not immediately clear. In either case, narrower-than-usual margins could cause some Texas Republicans to avoid political risks despite maintaining strong grasps on all areas of the state government. Then again, some Republicans may be feeling confident about having survived the “blue wave” of 2018. We will have to wait and see how these tighter margins will impact efforts to expand parental choice for the state’s roughly 4.7 million public school students heading into the 2019 legislative session.
Wyoming has historically been one of the most politically stable states in the country in terms of state legislative control, and 2018 was no exception. Republicans maintained control of both state legislative chambers this year. The state does, however, have tendency to swap partisan control of the governor’s office regularly. It seems to have broken that pattern this time, electing Republican Mark Gordon to replace term-limited Republican incumbent Matt Mead. Continued Republican control of the governor’s office could factor significantly into future policy conversations in the state.