LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of teachers and public employees in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The Court ruled that public employees, including public school teachers and staff, who do not choose to join a union may not be forced by the union or the state to nonetheless pay fees to the union – unless the public employees clearly state that they want to pay dues or fees to the union. The state may no longer automatically take money from a teachers paycheck and give it to the union without the teacher’s clear consent. Learn more about why this ruling matters to education reform here.
District of Columbia
The Council of the District of Columbia requested a $45 million federal payment in fiscal year 2019 for the Opportunity Scholarship voucher program, as well as for school improvement. The voucher is funded by Congress. The act is currently under council review.
Nearly 150,000 children are receiving scholarships to receive a private education of their choice thanks to Florida’s school choice programs. Notwithstanding this success, in a lawsuit that began nine years ago, Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education, Citizens for Strong Schools (Citizens) filed its “Petitioners’ Initial Brief” at the Florida Supreme Court on June 4. (The Florida Supreme Court, in a surprise move, agreed to hear the case earlier this year.) Citizens allege that Florida has violated the state constitutional requirement to provide adequate funding for a uniform, efficient and high-quality system of public schools. They allege that funding is inadequate (despite significant improvement in students’ academic achievement), and they allege that the state’s school choice programs contribute to disparity in funding while also violating the state constitutional mandate for a uniform system of public education (despite continued growth in the program and strong favorable support from participating families, while also contributing to positive educational improvement in Florida). Briefing in this case will continue, with briefs due later this month from the state and from parents intervening in the case in favor of Florida’s school choice programs (represented by our friends at the Institute for Justice).
On the last day of the Louisiana state legislature’s third special session, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers reached a budget deal (HB 1), which will provide $41.9 million in funding for the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP).
On June 21, the Interim Education Committee met to discuss the impact of the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program. Dozens of groups testified, and the committee will make future recommendations based off of that testimony.
North Carolina’s Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities program, a private school voucher, received an additional $3 million in funding. This will help about 375 families who were previously waitlisted for the program.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the 2018–19 state budget, which included a $25 million increase in the tax credits available through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC now has a cap of $160 million, including $110 million for K–12 scholarship organizations, $12.5 million for preschool scholarship organizations and $37.5 million for educational improvement organizations. Additionally, the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) has a cap of $50 million, for a combined total of $210 million in tax credits to expand educational opportunity in the Keystone State.
IN OTHER NEWS
Leslie Hiner represented EdChoice and our Legal Defense and Education Center by participating in the NCSL Education Committee meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She also attended the annual conference of 100 Black Men of America in Hollywood, Florida, where EdChoice sponsored an education panel, moderated by the president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, Dr. Thomas A. Parham. The panel discussed, “Educational Reform and School Choice: Pathways to Innovative Learning or Deferred Dreams”, which was both lively and well-received. Hiner also attended the summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Portland, Oregon and met attorneys general from Vermont, Oregon and Maryland, and during informal meetings informed attorneys and corporate sponsors about the latest in school choice. Finally, she spoke on a panel at the Women in Government National Legislative Conference in San Francisco. The panel, “The State of Education in America”, also included the president of National Association of State Boards of Education, director of advocacy for National Association of Secondary School Principals, president and CEO of TeachPlus, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.