BRIEF: School Choice in the States, April 2018




A proposed education savings account in the Golden State, SB 1344, failed in committee. It was granted reconsideration April 4.



Colorado’s HB 18-083, an income tax credit for private school tuition as well as for the funding of private school scholarships, passed the Senate. The credit amount is worth the tuition amount, the scholarship amount or half of the state average per-pupil revenue, whichever amount is least. The budget amount is set for $50.8 million for the 2018–19 school year.



The Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee failed to take up SSB 3206. This bill would have created an “education savings grant” which would allow eligible students to spend their money on a wide variety of educational expenses. The bill will not advance this session.



Gov. Larry Hogan signed SB 187, the state’s budget bill. The bill increased Maryland’s Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) voucher program’s budget cap from $5.5 million to $8.85 million for the 2018–19 school year. The bill included various additional reporting requirements for the program, as well as a provision for prioritizing awarding vouchers to first-year applicants who previously attended public schools.



Mississippi’s legislative session ended April 1. Two major pieces of legislation, SB 2623 and HB 957, did not pass. SB 2623 would have expanded the state’s education savings account program for students with special needs to all students switching out of a public district or charter school or entering kindergarten or first grade. It died when the Mississippi Senate failed to act before the bill expired. HB 957 would have created a new funding formula for education in the state, but it was defeated in the Senate in a 27-21 procedural vote.



In oral arguments presented on April 6, the Montana Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of Montana’s tax-credit scholarship program and the Montana Department of Revenue’s rule specifically excluding private religious schools from participation in the program. Dick Komer of the Institute Justice, representing Montana parents suing to invalidate the department of revenue’s attack on religious freedom, and his local counsel, Bill Mercer, presented arguments in favor of the tax-credit scholarship program. Their opponents argued to invalidate the program by attempting to prove that tax credits used for scholarships are legislative appropriations; this would be an unusual, first-of-its-kind result if the high court accepts that argument. A ruling from the Court is expected “soon”—perhaps by the end of this year. The case is Espinoza vs Montana Department of Revenue. Readers can watch oral arguments from April 6 here.


South Carolina

HB 4077, a bill that codifies South Carolina’s tax-credit scholarship program language and makes technical corrections, was referred to the Finance Committee in February. In April, the committee issued a favorable report with amendment. SB 622, a bill that would allow parents of eligible students to apply and receive the state-only portion of their child’s education funds in a personal, parent-controlled account, was introduced and referred to the Education Committee.