BRIEF: School Choice in the States – February 2023

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

Here’s what happened in February 2023.

In February, state legislators introduced SB 294 (The Learns Act). This bill would create the Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program—an education savings account (ESA). It would make all students eligible by 2025. This bill also would increase teacher pay and raise Philanthropic Investment in the Arkansas Kids Scholarship Program’s total tax credit cap, taking it from $2 million to $6 million with a 5 percent automatic escalator.
The bill passed the full House. Next step is the full Senate.

HB 23-1079 would allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit after enrolling a qualified child in a private school or providing a scholarship to a qualified child for enrollment in a qualified school. Additionally, the bill would allow prorated income tax credits for taxpayers who use home-based education for qualified children. Most recently, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

The Connecticut legislature is currently considering ESA, voucher and tax-credit scholarship legislation.

HB 6040 would establish education savings accounts (ESAs) in the state, and HB 5535 would set up a study on the impact of ESAs. Meanwhile, lawmakers also introduced SB 277, a bill that would remove prohibitions against a Board of Education from establishing a school voucher program, and HB 5545, a bill initiating a study on the state and local fiscal impact of a school voucher program. There are no significant updates on any of this legislation from last month’s update.

In February, state legislators introduced two educational choice bills. HB 5424, which would establish a tax-credit scholarship program. HB 6179 would establish that money follows the child for all education funding.

HB 1 continues moving through the Florida House of Representatives. It would expand the state’s current Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (Voucher) to a universal ESA. Most recently, this bill was referred to Education & Employment Committee.

In February, state legislators introduced SB 202, a companion bill to HB 1. It is now in the Appropriations Committee on Education.

In February, state legislators introduced SB 233, which would create a near-universal education savings account. It has been referred to the Senate.

Lawmakers in Hawaii introduced HB 1272 in January, a bill establishing a school voucher program. The program would extend eligibility to Hawaii families with incomes not exceeding four times the federal poverty line. Most recently, this bill has been referred to the House Education and Finance Committees.

In February, state legislators introduced SB 1038, which would have created universal ESAs. The measure failed on the third reading in the Senate, and will not advance any further.

HB 1135, which would create the Education Savings Account Act, was introduced in January. This bill says that a parent of an eligible student (defined as any student who was eligible to attend a public school or is starting school in Illinois for the first time and who is a member of a household whose total annual income does not exceed an amount equal to 2.5 times the income standard used to qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch) will qualify for an ESA. Most recently, this bill has been referred to Rules Committee.

In February, state legislators introduced House Bills 1573 and 3672, which would create an income-based ESA, and HB 2608, which would create a universal ESA.

Indiana lawmakers introduced a voucher expansion in the state budget via HB 1001. The bill would increase the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program’s eligibility from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program income limits. It would also eliminate 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. Eligibility is currently 77 percent, but these changes would make the program nearly universal at approximately 90–95 percent of students eligible.

HB 1001 has passed the Indiana House and is currently referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In February, state legislators introduced HB 2218, which would create a universal ESA (phased in over three years). The bill has been rereferred to the Committee on K-12 Education Budget.

In February, state legislators introduced HB 174, which would amend Kentucky’s constitution to allow for school choice. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Committees.

Introduced in January, HB 9 would create an ESA for students with exceptionalities to attend non-public schools. Most recently, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education.

HD 139 was introduced to the Massachusetts legislature in January. The bill would offer a near-universal ESA of $9,500 to students with prior public attendance of at least six weeks. There have been no significant movements since last month’s update.

SF 939 and HF 768 were introduced in Minnesota in January. They would create the Education Savings Accounts for Students Act, a program open to children who have attended a public school and whose family’s household income does not exceed the 300 percent of the income standard of the National School Lunch Program. There have been no significant movements on these bills since last month’s update.

In February, state legislators introduced several bills. SF 1000, SF 1210, HF 1109, and HF 1908 are all income-based ESA proposals.

HB 747: Since last month’s update, this bill—which would have created an education savings account program—failed to pass in committee.

In February, state legislators introduced SB 255, which would create a means-tested ESA program.

Introduced in January, SB 118 would increase the limit of the state’s tax-credit scholarship program to $5 million, allowing for more participation in choice. There have been no significant movements on this bill since last month’s update.

Introduced in January, LB 528 would create the Nebraska Option Enrollment Tuition Account Program, an ESA for students who are rejected transfer in the public school open enrollment program.

Also filed in January, 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 hierarchal tiers. Taxpayers could get a credit for the full amount donated or 50 percent of their income tax liability for that year.

There have been no significant movements since last month’s update on these pieces of legislation.

New Hampshire
State lawmakers in New Hampshire introduced HB 367, a bill that would expand the eligibility of the state’s Education Freedom Account Program from 300 to 500 percent of the federal poverty line. Also making its way through the legislature is HB 464, another potential expansion of the Education Freedom Account Program.

Most recently, both bills had committee reports without recommendations: “Ought to Pass with Amendment.”

New Mexico
Lawmakers introduced a universal ESA bill with the introduction of HB 480.
SB 109 was pre-filed in New Mexico in January. The bill would create Education Freedom Accounts, an ESA with universal eligibility for New Mexico K–12 students. Most recently, the bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Lawmakers introduced SB 11, which would expand eligibility for the Educational Choice Scholarship (voucher) program and increases the K-12 Home Education Tax Credit from $250 to $2,000. Additionally, HB 11 has been introduced, which creates the Backpack Scholarship Program, an ESA which could be spent at public or non-public schools.

Legislators filed HB 1935 and HB 2775 in concert, 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.

Introduced in January, SB 822 makes changes to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to remove the prior public school requirement and allow for year-round application. Most recently, this bill had its second reading and was referred to the Rules Committee, then the Appropriations Committee

HB 2830, HB 2560 and SB 260 were filed in January, and all create education savings account programs in Oregon. The bills have slight variations and have been referred to education committees in their respective chambers of origin. The bills have until April 4 to move out of their first committee.

Last month, Pennsylvania lawmakers in both chambers introduced co-sponsorship memos for the Lifeline Scholarship program, a targeted $7,500 ESA supported by Gov. Josh Shapiro. Under a previously introduced version of the program, students from low-performing school districts would be eligible, roughly 400,000 Pennsylvania students. Additionally, a constitutional amendment was proposed to allow all education funding to follow the child. There have been no changes since last month’s update.

Rhode Island
Rhode Island saw H. 5637 introduced in February, an ESA covering 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. Senators also introduced S. 0263, the Senate companion bill.

Lawmakers also introduced a low-income ESA with S. 261.

South Carolina
SB 0039 was filed with the South Carolina Senate in January to create an ESA for low-income families. Those with “a statement of Medicaid eligibility” would receive scholarships starting at $6,000 per student. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education. The bill passed the Senate and upon transfer to the House, was referred to the House Committee on Education and Public Works.

South Dakota
Introduced in early February, HB 1234 creates the Education Scholarship Account program, a universal voucher with a three-year phase-in.

Filed in January, SB 0012 and HB 0433 would expand eligibility criteria for an education savings account to include students zoned to attend a school in a Local Education Agency (LEA) with at least five schools instead of at least 10. SB 0638 and HB 0559 expand the eligibility of an ESA for students regarding being previously enrolled in public school. Both SB 0012 and HB 0433 passed the Senate.

Since, companion bill HB 0433 was recommended for passage by the House K-12 Subcommittee and referred to the Education Administration committee. It is on the calendar in this committee for March 8. Companion bill HB 0559 is currently assigned to the House K-12 Subcommittee and is on the calendar in this committee for March 7.

In February, legislators introduced HB 2114, a universal ESA offering $10,000 toward allowable expenses per participating student.

HB 2817 was also introduced in February and establishes an ESA for students who are educationally disadvantaged, have a disability or failed certain assessment instruments.
From last month, SB 176, would allow school choice through a tax-credit scholarship program. Since last month’s update, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education. Additionally from last month, HB 619 would enact an education savings account. Since last month’s update, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Public Education.

In February, legislators introduced H 405, which would create a universal voucher for students to attend public or private schools of their choice.

This year, Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Sears backed HB 1508, a bill that would have established the Virginia Education Success Program, an ESA. The program would have been open to families enrolled or starting in public school. Funds could be used on qualifying expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring, transportation, books, etc. Each account was to be funded with the state’s average per-pupil education spending.

In February, the bill did not garner enough support to move forward in the divided legislature. Sears said of the news: “Although we did not have the votes to pass it this year, the momentum from across the Commonwealth was incredible! We will continue to fight for the right of every child to have education opportunities, regardless of zipcode.”

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 had a hearing in the House Committee on Education in early February.

Wyoming legislators hoped to pass an ESA with universal eligibility this year. SF 0413 would have done just that. The bill passed the Senate in February and a majority of House members are co-sponsoring the bill. The House Speaker is refusing to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.