With Gov. Kay Ivey now pushing for legislation to create education savings accounts next session, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth is confident school choice will become a reality in Alabama.
"I appreciate the governor supporting ESAs. That's going to be important," Ainsworth told 1819 News CEO Bryan Dawson on a recent episode of "1819 News: The Podcast." "Her leadership on this I think is going to help us get this done."
Ainsworth said he anticipates some pushback, but with Ivey now taking the lead, those opposed won't have as good a chance of deterring a school choice bill as happened with the PRICE Act.
"Even people that are opposed to school choice say it's coming," he said. "They'll try to water it down. They'll try to dilute it. They'll try to maybe kill it behind the scenes, but we're not going to let them."
Ainsworth said the driving philosophy behind school choice is that parents should have control of their kids' education and not be bound by a zip code.
"Does the government and the school system know what's best for your child or does the parent? The parent does. It's real simple. So school choice really boils down to, OK, we're going to let parents decide what's best for their child, not a zipcode or where you live or whatever the situation is."
He continued, "The idea is, well, that's the state's money. No, no. Everybody's paying taxes… The right message is I'm paying money. If I'm not sending my kid to that school, I should be able to take my money and use it for homeschool or private school, whatever you decide, or go to another public school.
"You talked about competition. When you look at that, I think that's so important because it's going to drive people to work harder. My kids play sports, I coach them in sports. I love competition because it makes people drive and I think that grit is such an important factor in whether somebody's going to be successful or not, whether they keep pushing and pushing. We need that in schools."
Ainsworth said Alabama's current education model has been "backward" for too long and that with "woke" ideology creeping in, school choice is vital to turning around the state's low education scores.
"Everything that made America great, we do the opposite in our schools. So we really need to tweak that model," he said. "… I think school choice is part of it, I think get rid of tenure. Look, if you're not a good teacher, you're gone."
"If schools are going to go crazy on this woke stuff, then guess what's going to happen? That school's not going to have any students and is going to shut down. We don't need to be afraid of that," Ainsworth added.
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