BRIEF: School Choice in the States December 2015
Minnesota – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona
The Friedman Foundation hosted an educational summit for about 40 Minnesota legislators in Chicago in early December. The summit featured expert presentations on the four types of school choice programs: education savings accounts, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and tax credits and deductions. Presentations also included breakdowns of the existing research on school choice programs across the country, the fiscal impact of school choice in Minnesota, and more.
Missouri – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner
Missouri legislators pre-filed two education savings account (ESA) bills, HB 1888 and SB 609. HB 1888, introduced by Rep. Shamed Dogan, outlines a nearly-universal ESA similar to Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts. SB 609, filed by Sen. Ed Emery, is what we are categorizing for now as a “tax-credit ESA” for students with certain disabilities. The program is unique. Although it works similarly to Lexie’s Law for Disabled and Displaced Students Tax Credit Scholarship Program in Arizona, Missouri’s ESA would allow more expansive use of scholarship funding. Educational assistance organizations in Missouri, funded by private charitable donations, would deposit scholarship dollars into savings accounts for students to use on private school tuition and other learning expenses, including therapies, tutoring, extracurricular activities at a public school, online courses, AP tests, college savings, and more. Donors to such organizations could receive tax credits for their donations.
Montana – Michael Chartier @mchart1
The Institute for Justice and the Pacific Legal Foundation filed lawsuits challenging the Department of Revenue’s rules, which exclude religious private schools from participating in the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. The Institute for Justice filed its case, Espinoza v. Department of Revenue, in the 11th District Judicial Court. Pacific Legal Foundation’s case, Armstrong v. Kadas, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Montana.
Nevada – Michael Chartier @mchart1
The Legislative Commission approved the state treasurer’s rules for Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts. Among other things, the final rules clarified that children under the age of seven and children of active duty military members are exempt from the requirement to attend public school for 100 days before qualifying for the ESA.
New Hampshire – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner
The Sullivan County Superior Court denied the state’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have shut down Croydon’s town tuitioning program. For now, the students who were at risk of losing their educational opportunities during the pending litigation may continue in their schools of choice. There will be a hearing for the case next week.
Pennsylvania – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona
Tax credits donors receive for making charitable donations to Pennsylvania scholarship organizations (SOs) must be approved in the state’s budget. Donors and SOs anxiously awaited approval of their state’s budget, unsure of the fate of their tax-credit scholarship programs for nearly six months due to the Governor’s veto of the budget in June and veto of a short term spending bill in September. In the final days of December, Gov. Tom Wolf instructed that letters be sent to SOs notifying them that donor applications to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs have been conditionally approved. Those letters, sent on Christmas Eve, indicated that conditional approval was contingent on final passage of the state budget. Whereas a partial budget was signed into law before year’s end, legislators restarted budget negotiations January 5 to complete their task. At issue is funding for education, public employee pensions, and tax increases to fund these obligations.
Texas – Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona
The Friedman Foundation and partners hosted Texas legislators at a fact-finding trip in Phoenix, Arizona last month. The legislators visited two private schools that participate in Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Program and tax-credit scholarship programs. The event also featured informative presentations on the four types of school choice programs, existing school choice research, and the fiscal impacts of school choice programs in the states.
Wisconsin – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) quietly closed its long-term investigation of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The investigation was spurred by complaints from Disability Rights Wisconsin and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin alleging that voucher-accepting private schools discriminated against students with special needs. In response to those complaints, filed in 2011, the DOJ requested Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction look into the program. In December, the DOJ finally closed the investigation, stating that it found no evidence of discrimination.
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