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RIP, C-FLEX? This Year Perhaps, But Bring Back the Debit Card ASAP

Yesterday I celebrated the fantastic news that Alabama has become the 43rd charter school state. In that post I noted that Alabama is behind the curve (and way behind Colorado) on public school choice, but beat us to the punch on scholarship tax credits.

Still, as good as it is, welcoming new states into the charter fold wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I contemplated that 2015 could become the official Year of School Choice sequel. I made that observation based on the number of states pursuing new or expanded Education Savings Account (ESA) programs.

For example, I’m not the only waiting with bated breath to see if and when Alabama’s next door neighbor, Mississippi, will become the third ESA state. (My elders keep advising me to be patient, but that’s just really hard!)

Less well known is the fact that Colorado considered its first serious ESA legislation this year. The sponsor of House Bill 1196, Rep. Paul Lundeen, came up with the name C-FLEX, for Colorado Flexible Lifetime Learning Expenditure Accounts, to denote his idea for a plan that would have opened doors and empowered families of many of the state’s special-needs and gifted students.

Those of you who are astute, careful readers noticed the use of past tense in the last paragraph. Yes, it’s true. Chalkbeat Colorado reports this morning that the House Education Committee took the ax to C-FLEX on a 6-5 party-line vote.

Of course, the story cites the usual litany of defenders of our current century-old education system. If you follow this world for any length of time, then you’re not surprised to see a statement like this one:

Witnesses representing the Colorado Association of Schools Board, Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado Education Association opposed the bill, saying it would syphon [sic] badly needed funding from public schools.

Who’s entitled to the money? The student being served, or a government agency? Guess that’s where we part ways. But the fact that the author of the Chalkbeat article described the ESA plan as “kind of an electronic voucher system” is just one significant piece of evidence that more educational work needs to be done.

This video my Education Policy Center friend recently made would be a good place to start dispelling such notions:

So while it’s a sad RIP to HB 1196 and C-FLEX this year, count me among the first to call for the issue to return ASAP. More freedom. More responsibility. More opportunity…. for students and their families. That’s something to look forward to.