Last week, the House of Representatives almost did something great for parents and students, advancing an important education proposal a long time in the making — until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ruined it.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) first introduced the bill, the Student Opportunity Amendment, in 2017). The provision focused on expanding the scope of 529 college savings plans — tax-advantaged accounts to which parents and grandparents are allowed to contribute up to $10,000 per kid annually — to also allow disbursements for K-12 education costs, including tuition for private schools and religious schools, and, at least initially, costs for homeschooling and costs for educational therapy for kids with disabilities.
The amendment passed by the narrowest of margins and was added to the larger tax bill, but Senate Democrats, in true sore loser fashion, lobbied the Senate parliamentarian to invoke an arcane Senate rule to remove language from the amendment and specifically exclude the homeschoolers and kids with disabilities. Sadly, they were successful.
Cruz could have done a victory lap and called it a day — after all, he was successful in expanding 529s to include tuition for private K-12 schools. But he wasn’t done. This past January, Cruz introduced the Student Empowerment Act, an ambitious next step that expanded the scope of 529s even further, allowing (as the Student Opportunity Amendment did) for disbursements for homeschooling costs and for educational therapy for kids with disabilities, but also for a number of miscellaneous expenses relates to education — expenses that everyone, even families who send their kids to public school, could take advantage of under these plans.
In a feat of bipartisan negotiation, Cruz and Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), the House sponsor of the Student Empowerment Act, managed to get the bill added to a larger bipartisan “must-pass” bill — Rep. Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) SECURE Act (H.R. 1994) — which sailed through the House Ways and Means Committee with no objection.
Everything was looking good — that is, until Pelosi heard from a few radical anti-family special interest groups (teacher’s unions who happen to contribute millions of dollars to the Democrats’ campaign coffers each election cycle) and decided to spike the whole thing, backing out of the previously agreed upon deal. Because the larger bill was viewed as bipartisan, the SECURE Act — minus the Student Empowerment Act — passed on Thursday 417-3.
There’s still hope — the Senate Finance Committee could keep the Student Empowerment Act in the Senate counterpart bill, S.972, the Retirement and Savings Act (RESA) and stake out a fight on this later — but it’s a shame to see what would have been a great bipartisan policy change for parents with kids thrown out the window because Pelosi put the desires of her real constituents, wealthy special interest groups with deep pockets, ahead of the financial well-being of millions of families across the country.
This is now the second time — just on this issue alone — where Democrats have gone to great lengths to punish parents with kids. Why? What are they afraid of?
Remember, the Student Empowerment Act benefits nearly all families, whether their kids were homeschoolers, private schoolers, or public schoolers. The bill grants tax advantages to pay for a variety of education costs, such as tutoring, curriculum materials, books, dual enrollment fees, and more. It lends a hand to parents who are doing their best to fully provide for their kids’ education. There shouldn’t be anything controversial about that.
And yet Nancy Pelosi and the teacher’s unions just couldn’t stand it. The bill had to go. We can’t give parents choices — after all, we have a monopoly to enforce!
It’s difficult to comprehend why anyone would have a problem with families getting a tax break to save money for books and tutoring. But hey, this is the modern Democratic Party. They don’t actually care about the family, nor do they care about expanding access to education. Voters should remember that in 2020.
Jon Schweppe (@JonSchweppe) is the director of government affairs at the American Principles Project, a nonprofit think tank and political advocacy organization committed to defending the fundamental American principle of human dignity.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.