BRIEF: School Choice in the States, February 2018
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
Lawmakers in California proposed two school choice-related bills in February. AB 2480 would create a tax-credit scholarship program for personal and business taxes. Students from families earning 250 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program would qualify. The credit value of donations to scholarship-granting organizations is listed as 100 percent, although it is also a non-refundable credit. The bill has not moved since its filing. Scholarships may be used for both public and private schools that comply with regulations. SB 1344 would create an education savings account in 2020 for K–12 and higher education expenses, including private schools. ESAs would be funded at the same level ($11,000) California spends on average for each pupil for public education.
Introduced in January, SB 18-083 moved from the finance committee unamended to the appropriations committee. The bill would create a tax-credit scholarship for private school tuition.
Florida’s Senate Appropriations Committee passed HB 7055, a bill that creates Hope Scholarships for victims of bullying and abuse among many other changes to Florida’s education policy, which previously passed the Senate Education Committee and the Florida House of Representatives. If enacted, the Hope Scholarships would be the first educational choice program in the nation targeted toward victims of bullying or abuse.
Georgia’s HB 482, a bill that would have created education savings accounts for K–12 students, expired before the legislature voted on it.
Idaho’s House Education committee voted to advance HB 590, which would create a new tax credit-funded education savings account. Allowable uses include private school tuition, online schools, tutoring facilities and standardized testing. Families of low-income, with special needs students, at-risk students and children of active-duty military would be eligible.
Illinois’s Opportunity Scholarship Act (SB 668), which would establish a special fund under the state treasury to be used for private school scholarships in Cook County, moved to the education subcommittee on special issues. Lawmakers also introduced HB 4830, which would expand the state’s existing individual tax credit for educational expenses to $1,500. The current limit is $750.
The Mississippi Senate failed to act before the expiration of SB 2623, a bill that would have expanded the state’s special needs education savings account program to all students switching out of a public district or charter school or entering kindergarten or first grade.
The New Hampshire House Finance Committee continues to work on SB 193, which would create an education savings account program for low-income families. The bill previously passed the NH Senate and the NH House, but was referred to a second committee because it has a fiscal note. Whereas the House Education Committee’s version made students eligible if their household family income was up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, the Finance Committee is considering an amendment that would limit eligibility only to families with a household income up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line.
New Jersey introduced S 1555, an education savings account for use at educational institutions other than public schools. The bill is similar to Assembly Bill 1545, which was introduced last month. Tutors and homeschooling expenses are also allowed. Students must have been enrolled in a New Jersey public schools at least 100 days prior to receiving an ESA. Students with special needs and from families earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the full state equalization aid in ESA funding. All other applicants would receive 90 percent of this amount. It was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
The Rhode Island Senate introduced SB 2378, which would raise Rhode Island’s tax-credit scholarship cap to $5 million in fiscal year 2019 and increase it by 15 percent following any year in which applications for credits exceed contributions by 10 percent. The program’s current cap is $1.5 million. The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.