BRIEF: School Choice in the States – April 2023

Each month, the EdChoice policy team breaks down into bite-sized pieces all of the past month’s educational choice-related legislative movement.

The Year of Universal Choice continues, as legislatures in two additional states, Indiana and South Carolina, took giant leaps to expand educational freedom for students in their states!

Here’s what happened in April 2023.

In April, HB 295 (companion SB 202) The PRICE Act was introduced in Alabama, an education savings account (ESA) that would become universal three years following enactment.

SB 292 would have established a $17,000 ESA that would become universal four years following enactment. The bill failed to pass the Education Committee in a 5-2 vote on April 19.

State budget bill HB 1001 passed the legislature, and Gov. Holcomb’s signed it into law. This will expand the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program’s student eligibility to near-universal! The passed budget raises the income threshold from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program income limits and eliminates the other pathways for eligibility, such as being a foster care student, being a student with special needs and being assigned to an “F”-graded public school. With this measure, student eligibility increases from 77 percent to 96 percent.

HB 9, which would create an ESA for students with exceptionalities, passed Education Committee 12-0 in April. It now moves to Appropriations

HB 98, which would expand public school choice and create near-universal ESA, passed education committee 7-4 in April. It moves to appropriations as well.

SB 255 would create a means-tested ESA program. The bill did not move in April.

Passed by the legislature at the end of April, HB 393 would create an ESA for students with disabilities. It awaits a signature from Gov. Gianforte.

LB 753 would create the Opportunity Scholarships Act, a tax-credit scholarship program. Eligibility would be the same qualifier for the National School Lunch Program, but priority given based on five hierarchical tiers. Taxpayers could get a credit for the full amount donated or 50 percent of their income tax liability for that year. At the end of April, it was placed on Final Reading.

New Hampshire
Previously, HB 367 was written to expand the eligibility of the state’s Education Freedom Account Program from 300 percent to 500 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL). The bill was amended to increase that percentage from 300 percent to 350 percent of FPL. Also making its way through the legislature is HB 464, which would expand the same program for special groups. They both passed the House in March and received hearings in the Senate at the end of April.

North Carolina
The tide changed rapidly in the Tar Heel State in April. State Representative Tricia Cotham announced she was switching parties, securing a veto-proof majority in both chambers for Republican lawmakers. It is generally believed that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper would veto legislation to fund students instead of systems. Shortly after her announcement, Cotham signed on to HB 823, a bill creating a universal ESA. Currently, enough lawmakers are signed on to the bill to override a potential veto by Cooper. The Senate companion bill is S 406.

North Dakota
HB 1532 would create a $3,000 school voucher available to approximately 3,000 students. The bill passed the legislature in April and was poised to become North Dakota’s first private school choice program, but it was vetoed by Gov. Burgum.

SB 11, which would expand eligibility for the Educational Choice Scholarship (voucher) program to universal access and increases the K–12 Home Education Tax Credit from $250 to $2,000, did not advance further within the Senate. Stay tuned for updates as Ohio begins its budget process.

HB 1935 and HB 2775 are a packaged deal, creating a refundable tax credit for educational expenses. HB 1935 contains the portion regarding the refundable tax credit, and HB 2775 contains funding for public schools along with teacher pay raises. Both bills have passed the House and Senate but with amendments. Negotiations to come to a consensus continue.

SB 822 makes changes to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to remove the prior public school requirement and allow for year-round application. The bill did not move in March.

HB 514, a bipartisan sponsored, targeted ESA for students with disabilities, students from military families and students whose schools don’t meet their needs did not move within the House Education Committee in April.

B 311, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow all education funding to follow the child, did not move within the House Education Committee in April.

Co-sponsorship memos for the Lifeline Scholarship program, which would create a targeted $7,500 ESA supported by Gov. Josh Shapiro, did not see any movement in April. Stay tuned for updates as Pennsylvania heads into budget season.

Rhode Island
H. 5637 is an ESA that would cover numerous allowable expenses for qualifying students. Scholarships shall not exceed $6,000 per student and vary in total based on family income, with special provisions for students with disabilities. It was held for further study in April S. 0263, is the Senate companion bill, and it did not move in April.

S. 261 would establish a low-income ESA. It also did not move in April.

South Carolina
SB 0039 will create an ESA for about 71 percent of South Carolina families. It was passed by the legislature this month and is expected to be signed into law.

SB 0285 would create a tax-credit scholarship program for families whose income does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty line. The bill did not move in April.

South Dakota
HB 1234 would create an Education Scholarship Account program, a universal voucher with a three-year phase-in. The bill did not move in April.

SB 0012: This legislation was signed into law in April and expands the state’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program.

SB 0638: This bill also expands the state’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program and was signed into law in April.

SB 8: A nearly universal ESA, SB 8 would offer scholarships in the amount of $8,000 to participating students. The Senate passed the bill in April.

SB 1474: This piece of legislation would create an ESA for students with disabilities. Most recently, it was reported favorably in a Senate committee.

HB 2114,: This bill is a universal ESA that would offer $10,000 toward allowable expenses per participating student. The bill did not move in April.

HB 2817: This bill would establish an ESA for students who are educationally disadvantaged, have a disability or failed certain assessment instruments. The bill did not move in April.

SB 176: SB 176 allows school choice through a tax-credit scholarship program. The bill did not move in April.

HB 619: We want to issue a correction from last month. HB 619 is a bill that would establish a tax-credit scholarship program, not an education savings account. The bill was left pending in committee in April.

Vermont students who access educational options under the town tuitioning program face a serious threat in the legislature. H. 483, which already passed the House, makes significant cuts to the program, limiting the number of eligible schools, adding red tape for participating schools in the form of reporting requirements and additional steps for approval, and a moratorium on approving new independent schools.

HB 1615 would make more than 94,000 students in Washington eligible for an ESA, with priority given to eligible students with a disability, from low-income families, who are enrolled in public schools identified as challenged in need of improvement or have a sibling participating in the program. The bill did not move in April.