BRIEF: School Choice in the States, February 2017
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
The Alabama Senate passed SB 123, a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh that would expand the tax credits available through the state’s Education Scholarship Program. The bill is currently before the House Ways and Means Education Committee.
SB 1431, a bill that would expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to near-universal eligibility, passed the Senate Education Committee and is currently before the Senate Rules Committee. A companion bill, HB 2394, passed the House Education and Rules Committees and is headed to the House floor.
HB 1222, a bill that would create a tax credit-funded education savings account program, is being considered by the Arkansas legislature. The House Education Committee will hold a hearing on the bill during the second week of March. Learn more about this potential program here.
SB 902 was introduced to the Florida legislature. This bill would boost the funding for the state’s Gardiner Scholarship education savings accounts and expand eligibility to serve more categories of students with special needs. It is currently pending before the Senate Education Committee.
The Georgia House passed HB 217, a bill that would expand the tax credits available through the state’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit over several years from $58 million to a maximum of $100 million. The bill is now pending before the Georgia Senate.
Indiana Sen. Jeff Raatz introduced SB 534, a bill that would create an education savings account program for students with special needs. The bill received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, and it is currently being held in committee.
HF 386, a bill that would create a means-tested tax-credit scholarship program, passed out of the House Education Committee and has been referred to the Taxes Committee. A companion bill, SF 256, is currently before the Senate E-12 Finance Committee.
HB 1046, a bill that would expand Mississippi’s Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship program, passed the House and was transmitted to the Senate. The bill was referred to the Education and Appropriations Committees.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval submitted his recommended budget to the legislature this month. In it, he asked for a biannual appropriation of $60 million to fund the state’s education savings account program. The budget has been presented in both the Assembly Ways and Means committee as well as Senate Finance. They will vote sometime in the future.
SB 193, a bill that would create a nearly universal education savings account (ESA) program, passed the Senate Education Committee and the full Senate. It has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. HB 647, a bill that would create an ESA for students with special needs, passed the House Education Committee and the full House. It has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
Oklahoma Sen. Rob Standridge withdrew from consideration SB 560, a bill that would have created a new education savings account program. The bill may be reintroduced next year.
Both the Virginia General Assembly and Virginia Senate passed HB 1605, which would create an education savings account program for low-income students and students with special needs. However, the bill contained a “re-enactment clause” that requires the next legislature to pass the same bill again before it becomes law, essentially rendering it a symbolic vote only.
HB 2689, authored by Delegate Paul Espinosa, was introduced and dual referred to the House Finance and Education Committees. This bill would create a nearly universal education savings account program, and it is currently awaiting a hearing. Likewise, SB 273, authored by Sen. Robert Karnes, was introduced. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and is also currently awaiting a hearing.
IN OTHER SCHOOL CHOICE NEWS
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hosted an open house for long-time educational choice advocates and career professionals at the department. EdChoice Vice President of Programs Leslie Hiner attended the gathering, as it provided an opportunity to meet many leaders at the US Department of Education who are involved in the most innovative areas of education.
Hiner also spoke about the history, growth and future of educational choice at CPAC, the annual conference of the American Conservative Union.