BRIEF: School Choice in the States June 2014

Alabama – Stephanie Linn @StephanieJLinn

A trial court ruled that the school choice programs contained within the Alabama Accountability Act may continue while the state Supreme Court reviews a ruling striking down the Act. The office of the Attorney General and attorneys from the Institute for Justice filed a motion requesting a stay after Judge Gene Reese ruled the Act violates the Alabama Constitution’s single-subject rule, which requires legislation to focus on only one subject.

Delaware – Stephanie Linn @StephanieJLinn

Delaware lawmakers introduced HB 353, “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act,” an education savings account (ESA) bill for students from low- and middle-income households, students with special needs, students from active military households, and students who were or are wards of the juvenile court and have achieved permanency through adoption or guardianship. The Parent Empowerment ESA would allow parents to withdraw their children from a public district or charter school and receive a deposit of public funds into a government-authorized savings account, which they can access through a debit card to pay for private school tuition, textbooks, tutors, curriculum, online learning programs, contributions to 529 college savings plan, and college tuition at eligible postsecondary institutions.

Florida – Stephanie Linn @StephanieJLinn

Gov. Rick Scott signed SB 850, a bill that includes an education savings account (ESA) for students with special needs—called the Personal Learning Scholarship Account—along with an expansion of the existing Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. For details on how this bill will change education in Florida, see our full breakdown.

Idaho – Michael Chartier @mchart1 

The Friedman Foundation presented at the City Light Mission in Boise about the landscape of school choice nationally. The event highlighted the partnership between the Mission and Cole Valley Christian Schools. The Mission serves homeless men and women by providing a stable environment for them to get back on their feet. As such, Cole Valley Christian leaders provide scholarships for six children to attend their school.

North Carolina – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

Parents and their children needing scholarships to attend schools of their choice rallied in Raleigh on June 17. Only 2,400 scholarships are available under current law, yet the demand for those scholarships far exceeds the amount offered to families.

June 25 marked the first lottery for the scholarship program. A lottery was necessary because 5,552 children applied to receive one of the 2,400 available scholarships. The highest demand was seen in the following counties: Cabarrus, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Union, and Wake. The North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, which administers the program, received applications from children in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties; a 95 percent participation rate.

The North Carolina legislature is considering whether the 2,400 scholarship cap on the program can be raised this year. In the face of such strong demand and obvious need, parent voices are likely to have an impact on their elected officials.

Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities is North Carolina’s other scholarship program. On June 26, the legislature sent to Gov. Pat McCrory HB 172, a bill that clarifies the program, making it easier for parents to understand and the state to administer.

Oklahoma – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

The controversial Common Core State Standards federal initiative was repealed by Oklahoma’s state legislature. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill, HB 3399, on June 5 saying, “We are capable of developing our academic standard that will be better than Common Core.”

Oklahoma joins other states, including Indiana and South Carolina, in repealing Common Core. There is speculation that Oklahoma may take the lead in developing state standards that are unique among states, so Oklahoma is the state to watch.

In an interesting development, several individuals have sued the state over the repeal of Common Core, alleging that a certain provision establishing legislative oversight of the rule-making process is unconstitutional. Rep. Jason Nelson, author of the bill, said, “Everyone needs to know that this is really an effort instigated by a national group coming into the state to stir up a legal challenge to our efforts to repeal Common Core.” It appears that the national controversy over Common Core State Standards will now play out in Oklahoma’s state courts.

As the Friedman Foundation recently found in its national survey, the highest negative intensity toward Common Core came from parents of school-age children.