BRIEF: School Choice in the States March 2015

Alabama – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act on March 2. Alabama’s tax-credit scholarship and refundable tax credit programs, which serve low-income children with a preference for children in “failing” schools, are currently undergoing revisions through SB 71, which passed the Senate March 31.

Although SB 71 raises the funding cap on the tax-credit scholarship program from $25 million to $30 million, the bill unfortunately reduces the number of children who may receive a scholarship and places additional burdens on nonpublic schools and restrictions on scholarship giving organizations that have been working directly and, so far, successfully with those nonpublic schools. The bill is now before the House of Representatives.

Arkansas – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

Arkansas is one step away from becoming the nation’s 25th school choice state. After a concurrence vote from the Arkansas Senate, HB 1552, a bill creating a school voucher program for students with special needs, is on its way to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. With the governor’s signature, the Succeed Scholarship Program will become Arkansas’s first private school choice program and the country’s 53rd, just after passage of a new program in Mississippi. Learn the program’s details by visiting our helpful breakdown.

Arizona – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

In March, the Arizona legislature passed school choice bills that improve transparency among school tuition organizations and expand the state’s Low-Income Corporate Income Tax Credit Scholarship Program to include donations from small corporations. Learn more about Arizona’s school choice programs in our ABCs of School Choice.

Kansas – Michael Chartier @mchart1

Senate Bill 270, which would remove the “failing” schools requirement from the state’s tax-credit scholarship program, was passed out of the Committee on Assessment and Taxation. The full Committee on Taxation is now considering the bill.

Iowa – Michael Chartier @mchart1

Two bills—SF 240 and HSB 203, which both create education savings account (ESA) programs—failed to make it through the legislative process.

Maryland – Doran Moreland @Dmoreland9

Gov. Larry Hogan is working with state delegates to advance a two-tiered plan for tax benefits of up to $200,000 for businesses that donate to private and public schools as well as expansion of charter schools by loosening rules that some believe hamstring innovation. Both proposals historically have had broad bipartisan support.

Mississippi – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

After a concurrence vote from the Mississippi Senate, SB 2695, a bill that would create an ESA program for students with special needs, is on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk. The program would be only the third of its kind in the U.S., and with the governor’s signature, it would be the nation’s 52ndschool choice program. Check out a detailed breakdown of the new program’s eligibility, funding, and regulations here.

Montana – Michael Chartier @mchart1

HB 322, a bill that would create an ESA modeled after Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, was passed out of the Montana House of Representatives and received its first hearing in the Education and Cultural Resources Committee. SB 410, which would create a tax-credit scholarship for low-income families, is also making its way through the state legislature. It will now go to the House for consideration.

Nevada – Michael Chartier @mchart1

The Nevada Assembly Education Committee passed Assembly Bill 165, which would create a tax-credit scholarship for low- and middle-income students, with a Do Pass recommendation. The bill now awaits a full floor vote. Senate Bill 302, a universal ESA program for students who attended public schools a year prior, will receive a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on April 3.

New Mexico – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

The New Mexico House of Representatives passed the Equal Opportunity and Tax Credits bill, which would create a tax-credit scholarship program for low-income children.

North Carolina – Doran Moreland @Dmoreland9

The North Carolina Supreme Court held a hearing for the state’s Opportunity Scholarships, a school voucher program for low-income families. The offices of the Attorney General, the General Assembly’s attorneys, and the Institute for Justice each made oral arguments in defense of the program. A decision is expected by mid-April. Student applications are being accepted pending a court ruling. Demand is expected to exceed the 1,200 scholarships available.

Rhode Island – Michael Chartier @mchart1

HB 5790, which would create an ESA program for low- and middle-income families, was introduced and referred to the Rhode Island House Finance Committee.

Tennessee – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

Two complementary school choice bills—one a voucher for low-income students in “failing” schools, the other an ESA for students with special needs—are making their way through the Tennessee legislature. The Tennessee Senate passed SB 999, a voucher called the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act and sent the bill to the House. SB 27, The Individualized Education Act, an ESA program for children with an IEP, passed the Senate Education Committee and was referred to Senate Finance, Ways and Means.

Stay tuned for legislative updates by following us on Twitter @edchoice.