BRIEF: School Choice in the States, January 2018
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
Colorado introduced SB 18-083, an income tax credit for private school tuition in the state senate. It was assigned to the Finance Committee January 12. In addition, a taxpayer would qualify for a credit upon providing a scholarship to a qualified child for enrollment in a private school. The credit value is equal to either the tuition paid/scholarship provided or half of the previous year’s average per-pupil revenue, whichever amount is less.
Florida’s Senate Education Committee voted 6-4 in favor of SB 1172, a bill that would make victims of bullying or abuse eligible to receive tax-credit scholarships. A similar bill, HB 1, passed the Florida House PreK–12 Appropriations Subcommittee by a vote of 9-4. If enacted, the Hope Scholarships would be the first educational choice program in the nation targeted toward victims of bullying or abuse.
SB 1434 gives students attending low-performing schools eligibility for the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, while also granting them priority for the scholarship.
HB 7055 removes homeschooling as an eligible expense for the Gardiner Scholarship Program. It addresses school eligibility and reporting requirements for the Gardiner and tax-credit scholarship programs. This bill also makes some minor language changes to the McKay program’s eligibility.
Georgia legislators filed SB 68, a bill that would create education savings accounts for K–12 students. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.
Hawaii carried over SB 1279, a tax-credit scholarship program for students with disabilities that covers transportation costs, nonpublic special education tuition and other related educational expenses to the 2018 regular session. The bill was first introduced in 2017 and has since been referred to the Education and Ways and Means committees.
The Illinois legislature’s education committee might consider SB 668, the Opportunity Scholarship Act. This act establishes a special fund under the state treasury to be used for scholarships to non-public schools for parents of Cook County. Tax credits are awarded for contributions to the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.
HF 2160 would allow for a tax credit to be applied to the first $2,000 of what a taxpayer paid for tuition to a non-public school, up from $1,000. It is currently in the Ways and Means committee.
SF 2115 would allow for a refundable tax credit for taxpayers who have expenses for non-public school tuition and/or other qualified educational expenses related to attending a non-public school. It is currently in the Education Ways and Means Sub-committee.
SF 2091 would allow for the creation of an Education Savings Account for all Iowa children who were enrolled in a public school for the preceding two semesters or are an entering kindergartener. It is currently in the Education Ways and Means Sub-committee.
Kentucky legislators introduced and sent to the appropriations and revenue committee HB 134, an act that would establish an income tax credit for contributions made to a qualified scholarship-granting organization. Families are eligible if they are at or below 200 percent of FRL, if a student is in foster care or have emotional-behavioral disabilities, hearing impairments, mental disabilities, orthopedic impairments or other health impairments as defined by KRS 157.200. The total credit cap is $25 million, which has an escalator. The individual credit value is 95 percent of SGO contributions not to exceed $1 million. A similar bill is in the state’s Education Committee.
The Mississippi Senate Education Committee passed SB 2623, a bill that would expand the state’s education savings account program for students with special needs to all students that switch out of a public district or charter school or that enter kindergarten or first grade. The bill will now go to the full Mississippi Senate for consideration.
The Missouri Senate’s Government Reform Committee voted to recommend SB 612, a bill that would create a tax credit-funded education savings account program. Eligible children would include students with disabilities, foster children and the children of active-duty military personnel. The bill will soon be voted upon by the full Missouri Senate.
On January 19, legal briefs were filed at the Montana Supreme Court by and in support of plaintiffs suing the Montana Department of Revenue for their discriminatory rule barring religious schools from participating in Montana’s new tax-credit scholarship program (Espinoza vs Montana Department of Revenue). The plaintiffs are parents of children attending a religiously affiliated school in Stillwater. EdChoice filed an amicus brief in support of these parents and their right to choose a religious school for their children, which you can find here.
Nebraska legislators have filed LB 118, a bill that would create universally available tax-sheltered education savings accounts for K–12 students. Unlike ESA programs in other states, the Nebraska ESAs would not be publicly funded or offer tax credits in return for donations to scholarship organizations funding the accounts. The bill is currently pending before the Revenue Committee.
New Jersey introduced Assembly Bill 1545, an education savings account program for non-public elementary and secondary schools. Qualified expenses include private school tuition, e-learning, tutoring and homeschooling. The bill contains a prior public schooling requirement and is intended for families that earn no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level and receive the total statewide per-pupil equalization aid. All other pupils receive 90 percent of this aid.
In addition, New Jersey introduced SB 505, which establishes a pilot tax-credit scholarship program for low-income children. The bill has since been referred to the Senate’s Education Committee.
Rhode Island introduced HB 7055, a bill relating to its tax-credit scholarship program. It would increase the aggregate amount of tax credits for business donations to scholarship organizations to $5 million (from $1.5 million), with a 15 percent escalator for years in which contributions exceed credits by more than 10 percent.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed SB 193, which would create an ESA program for low-income families, by a vote of 184-162. The bill previously passed the Senate and is currently under consideration by the House Finance Committee.
South Carolina’s HB 4077 codifies the state’s tax-credit scholarship program language and makes technical corrections. It is currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Legislators in Virginia have introduced HB 1286, a bill that would create Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts for students from low- and middle-income families and those with disabilities. The bill is currently pending before the Virginia House Education Committee.
The commonwealth is also considering expanding the eligibility of its Education Improvement Scholarships to include prekindergarten.
SB 6 would allow for the creation of an education savings account (ESA) for all children who have attended a public school for 100 days immediately preceding the application for an ESA. Currently the bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee
HB 4008 would allow for the creation of an Education Savings Account for all children who special needs. Currently the bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.
SB 89 would allow for a parent or teach to receive a non-refundable tax credit for private school tuition and/or other related educational expenses. Credits are capped at $500 per child or $1,000 in the case of classroom teachers. The bill currently is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.
SB 128 would allow for the creation of an education savings account for every child in the state of West Virginia. Additionally, it would allow for a tax credit for tuition and other education-related expenses for parents as well as a credit for teachers purchasing classroom supplies. This bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.
HB 2429 would allow for a parent to receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 for homeschooling expenses or up to $2,000 for tuition paid to a private school. It is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Education Committee.
The Wisconsin House Education Committee held a hearing on SB 725, a bill to create ESAs for low-income students who score in the top 5 percent of any test mandated by the state or have been identified as being gifted and talented by demonstrating “evidence of high-performance capability in intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership or specific academic areas.” The state would annually distribute $1,000 into the accounts to pay for tuition, tutors, textbooks and more. If enacted, the Gifted-and-Talented ESA would be the first of its kind in the nation.