BRIEF: School Choice in the States – February 2022
The Arizona Senate passed SB 1657, a bill to expand eligibility for Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program to include students from low-income families, and the children of military veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers. Additionally, the bill makes several other technical improvements to the education savings account (ESA) program to make it easier for families to access and use. The bill also expands the Lexie’s Law for Disabled and Displaced Students tax-credit scholarship policy by increasing the total available tax credits by $4 million over two years and instituting an automatic escalator after that.
The Arizona Senate also passed SB 1707, a bill to expand eligibility for Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program to include students who received a grant under the COVID-19 educational recovery benefit program or the open for learning recovery benefit program.
Connecticut state legislators introduced HB 5057 and HB 5016, which lay a generalized groundwork for tax-credit scholarship programs in the state. The Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding will hold a hearing on HB 5016 on March 3. HB 5057 was referred to the same committee.
A state legislator also introduced HB 5089, which establishes the groundwork for an individual income tax-credit for educational expenses such as tuition, textbooks, computers, uniforms, tutoring services, etc. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding.
The Iowa Senate Appropriations Committee passed SF 2349 by a vote of 13-8. This proposal contains “Student First Scholarships” which is an ESA proposal available to students in households with income at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Students with special needs will also be eligible to receive accounts. Additionally, this bill would value accounts at 70 percent of the state per-pupil education funding. This would amount to an average of 5200 dollars per account. Next steps include a hearing by the full Senate.
In Louisiana, state legislators filed HB 194 and HB 227. These bills establish a per-pupil funding ESA program for students with exceptionalities. Qualifying educational expenses include tuition, fees, textbooks, technology, tutoring services, etc. Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Education.
Maryland state legislators introduced HB 1156, establishing the state’s first education savings account program. Under the program, qualifying students from families with an income of less than or equal to 500 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for 75 percent of the state’s determined per-pupil funding. For students from families earning an income greater than 500 percent of the federal poverty level, 50 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding is available. Educational expenses include tuition, fees, textbooks, tutoring, etc. The House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on March 15.
The Oklahoma Senate passed SB 1647, a bill that would create Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts, K–12 education savings accounts for all Oklahoma students.
In Rhode Island, state legislators introduced HB 7487, a universal per-pupil funding ESA program. Qualified educational expenses include tuition, materials, tutors, technology, etc. The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee.
With the signature of Gov. Kristi Noem, South Dakota became the first state to sign educational choice into law in 2022. SB 71 expanded eligibility for the state’s Partners in Education tax-credit scholarship policy (adding students in foster care) and increases the total available tax credits from $2 million to $3.5 million.
Tennessee state legislators filed HB 1671, expanding Tennessee’s Education Savings Account Pilot Program. This bill expands the program to students attending a school in an LEA that did not offer 180 days of in-person learning during the three years preceding September 1, 2025 or imposed a mask mandate and failed to offer specified exemptions. The Senate Education Committee recommended passage with amendment/s with 6 Ayes, 2 Nays, 1 PNV.
A state legislator introduced a similar bill, SB 2778, which replaces some current language of the Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program. The bill expands the program to students attending a school in an LEA that did not offer 180 days of in-person learning during the three years preceding September 1, 2025. The bill was passed on Second Consideration and referred to the Senate Education Committee.
In Washington, a state legislator filed SB 5871, establishing a micro-school pilot program. The bill was referred to the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.
On Feb 23, 2022, the Kentucky Supreme Court granted a request for transfer of Council for Better Education v. Johnson, moving this case directly from the trial court to the Supreme Court, bypassing the appellate court and fast-tracking this case. This case, brought primarily by Kentucky school districts, challenges the state’s first-in-the-nation tax-credit funded education savings account, the Education Opportunity Account Program. Council for Better Education v. Johnson, Kentucky Supreme Court, Case #2021-SC-0518.