Ideally speaking it is the hard job of a legislator to prioritize the distribution of scarce resources to programs based on their deserving and effectiveness. Representative Cheri Jahn (D – Wheat Ridge) is laudably pushing to ensure that foster children receive their share of state social services funding.
But the Democrat majority in Denver could do significantly more to provide these children greater stability and an opportunity for success: provide publicly-funded scholarships allowing foster kids the ability to choose a stable education program, whether the school be public or private. Foster children frequently are shuttled from home to home, and in the process transferred from school to school – often moving into educational environments that offer both privacy and needed services. The public school system can accommodate some of these foster care children, but certainly not all. It’s worth taking a look into.
Of course, making the scholarship proposal would require challenging the union power base that prefers to keep a tight grip on the public school monopoly. But it’s been enacted in Arizona and proposed in Maryland. It’s an idea where concern for what works best for at-risk kids should trump ideology and partisan differences. There may be enough Democrats in the Colorado legislature willing to join Republicans and give such a plan a try, but having to get through the pro-union gatekeepers in the education committees would make such an endeavor more than daunting – I’d say it would border more on the realm of impossible.
One moral of the story is clear: Having the Republican Party in power means at least having education committees who are favorable, not resistant, to school choice. Ideas like publicly-funded scholarships for foster care children could be introduced and debated. Interest groups, like the unions and bureaucrats, would not be able to dominate the conversation. Just a thought.