Each month, the EdChoice policy and legal teams break down into bite-sized pieces all of the past month’s educational choice-related legislation as well as movement of litigation through the courts.
Here’s what happened in January 2023.
HB 1113 was introduced in Arkansas. This bill would expand the Succeed Scholarship Program to include students in foster care.
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 allows prorated income tax credits for taxpayers who use home-based education for qualified children. The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.
In Connecticut, state legislators introduced numerous school choice bills to kick off the start of session. 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.
HB 1 was filed with the Florida House of Representatives. It would expand the state’s current Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (Voucher) to a universal ESA. This bill was passed through The House Sub-Committee of Choice and Innovation and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
Lawmakers in Hawaii introduced HB 1272, 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.
HB 1135, which would create the Education Savings Account Act, was introduced. 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.
Late last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds enacted HF 68, which created the Students First Act—an education savings account program. Eligibility starts at 300 percent of federal poverty level in 2023 then raises to 400 percent in 2024 then goes universal by 2025.
HB 9 would create an ESA for students with exceptionalities to attend non-public schools. This bill was filed in the Louisiana House of Representatives and will refer to the House Committee on Education.
HD 139 was introduced to the Massachusetts legislature. The bill would offer a near-universal ESA of $9,500 to students with prior public attendance of at least six weeks.
SF 939 and HF 768 were introduced in Minnesota. 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.
HB 747 was filed with the Mississippi House of Representatives. The Mississippi Scholarship Act will create a scholarship board to help students get better educational options. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Appropriations.
A bill request to establish education savings accounts for special needs students has been submitted. HB 203 provides more flexibility in open enrollment and a backpack approach to education for students and families. The creation of charter schools will be a large push this year, as they are currently illegal in the state. SB 118 would increase the limit of the state’s tax credit program to $5 million, allowing for more participation in choice.
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.
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.
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.
SF 109 was pre-filed in New Mexico. The bill would create Education Freedom Accounts, an ESA with universal eligibility for New Mexico K–12 students. It has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
SB 11 would create the Parent Education Freedom Act, an ESA that would provide an opportunity for every student in the state to receive either a scholarship to attend a private school or a tax credit to help pay for homeschooling expenses.
Oklahoma does not kick off session until February 6, but a number of school choice bills have been introduced by legislators. SB 822 makes changes to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to remove the prior public school requirement and allow for year-round application. SB 430 makes changes to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to require assessments. Several additional measures are expected to be filed during session.
HB 2830, HB 2560 and SB 260 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.
Pennsylvania lawmakers in both chambers have 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 has been proposed to allow all education funding to follow the child.
SB 0039 was filed with the South Carolina Senate 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.
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 expands eligibility of an ESA for students regarding being previously enrolled in public school. Both sets of bills have been introduced.
Two major pushes are being made to expand school choice in Texas this year. One would allow school choice through a tax-credit scholarship program, and the other through education savings accounts, or potentially a combination of the two. Gov. Abbott is determined to become a champion of school choice this year, and the coalition is more determined than ever to work together. SB 176 and HB 619 have currently been filed.
Gov. Spencer Cox signed SB 215 on January 28, 2023, creating the state’s first universal school choice program. The bill allows all K-12 Utah students to be eligible for an education savings account through the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program beginning in the 2024–25 school year.
Backed by Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, state lawmakers introduced HB 1508, which would establish the Virginia Education Success Program—an ESA open to families with students enrolled or starting in a public school. Families could use program funds on qualifying education expenses, such as private school tuition, tutoring, transportation, books, etc. Each account will be funded with a portion of the state’s average per-pupil education spending. The bill passed out of the House Committee on Education.
HB 1396, another ESA bill open to families with incomes up to 1,000 percent of free and reduced-price lunch standards (1,200 percent for families with a student with a disability), was introduced this month. The bill failed to pass out of committee.
SF 0143 would create the Wyoming Freedom Scholarship Program, an education savings account worth $6,000 for eligible students to use for tuition or qualifying education expenses. The bill sponsors have worked with the Treasurer’s offices to make needed amendments to the bill in committee related to the program administration. The bill passed through the Senate Education Committee with a vote of 4-1. HB 0194, the House companion bill, identical prior to amendments, is expected to be assigned to the House Education Committee for hearing prior to the deadline on Feb. 3. HB 0070 would expand home-based education, allowing for microschools and homeschool cooperatives, as current law restricts families to educate only their own child. The bill has passed unanimously in House Education Committee and the House Floor. It has been referred to the Senate for Introduction and referral to committee.