BRIEF: School Choice in the States, May 2019
Need a record of May 2019’s state school choice happenings? Our brief roundup has you covered
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 7070, a bill that creates a voucher program for 18,000 children from low- and middle-income families. The cap on enrollment increases by about 7,000 scholarships per year, and priority is given to children from low-income families (earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line) and children in foster care. DeSantis also signed the state budget, which included a $23 million increase for the Gardiner ESA program for students with special needs.
House Resolution 289, which seeks to protect funding for Illinois’s Invest in Kids program, moved to the Income Tax Subcommittee within the Revenue and Finance Committee.
Louisiana’s budget bill, which appropriates funds for the Louisiana Scholarship Program and the Tuition Donation Credit Program, passed both chambers. It will now head to a conference committee before going to the governor’s desk.
While not as far along as the budget, HB 592 passed the Louisiana House of Representatives by consensus. The bill would create 529 “earning enhancements” and state matching for K–12 education expenses.
Finally, State Rep. Jimmy Harris (D) introduced HCR 85, which recognized May 15 as School Choice Day in the state capitol.
On May 28, the Institute for Justice’s Tim Keller, on behalf of families in Montana, filed the last brief for the Espinoza v. MT Dept of Revenue Petition for Writ of Certiorari. This is an appeal of the adverse decision of Montana’s Supreme Court against their tax-credit scholarship program. Families are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The Court is expected to consider whether to accept the case no later than its conference on June 20, with a decision announced June 24 or later that week.
Through the Appropriations Bill, there are proposed structural changes to combine the education savings account and voucher programs in North Carolina. Both programs would continue to serve children with special needs. If passed, full time students with special needs would be eligible to receive up to $9,000 a year for educational expenses that include tuition for private schools, textbooks, tutoring services, educational therapies and transportation. If a child has a specific primary or secondary disability at the time of applying: 1) autism; 2) hearing impairment; 3) moderate to severe intellectual or developmental disabilities; 4) multiple, permanent orthopedic impairments; or 5) visual impairment, they could be eligible to receive up to $17,000 a year for educational expenses. If passed, children eligible for the education savings account could also apply for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which aids children seeking educational choice coming from low income backgrounds.
The Pennsylvania House passed HB 800, a bill that would increase the total tax credits available for scholarships by $100 million and allow the total to grow by 10 percent annually. The bill now goes to the Pennsylvania Senate.
Gov. Bill Lee signed HB 939 into law, which was passed in early May by both the house and the senate. The law will create a low-income geographically-restricted voucher program for students in Davidson and Shelby counties. The funding is equal to the average state and local funding that a student would receive in public school, and the students are required to take the Tennessee state test.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced HR 2538, the Child Safety Accounts Act. The bill provides tax credits for contributions to scholarship granting organizations for the funding of “Child Safety Accounts” (CSAs). These accounts allow families of students in the District of Columbia to withdraw their children facing applicable bullying and safety issues from public schools and use funds for private school tuition and education expenses. CSAs would be funded at a ratio—ranging from 80 to 90 percent depending on a family’s income level—of the D.C. uniform per-student funding formula. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
HR 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, was reported and debated in the House. Among many policy objectives, the bill would expand the use of 529 savings plans—already recently expanded to allow for distributions for K–12 education expenses—to allow for apprenticeship, homeschooling, and qualified education loan repayment costs.