BRIEF: School Choice in the States – March 2022
On April 4, shortly before the midnight deadline, the Georgia House and Senate both passed HB 517, a bill which increases Georgia’s tax-credit scholarship program’s credit cap by $20 million to $120 million, potentially allowing an additional 4,000 students to receive scholarships. The bill also removed the sunset provision and doubled the amount of tax credits that individual and corporate taxpayers can receive in return for their contributions to student scholarship organizations (SSOs), which will make it easier for SSOs to raise the funds needed to provide students with scholarships.
This month, the Iowa Senate passed SF 2369 by a vote of 31-18. This bill contains a proposal that would see up to 10,000 education savings accounts funded for students in Iowa. Students with IEPs or that live in households with an income below 400 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible under this proposal. This piece of legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for further deliberation.
The New Hampshire House voted 159-152 to pass HB 1298. This proposal would expand the number of eligible students in the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. Currently, students living in households making 300 percent of the federal poverty level or below are eligible. If passed into law, this legislation would see that figure increase to 500 percent of the federal poverty level. Next steps will include a hearing by the Senate Education Committee.
By a vote of 22-24, the Oklahoma Senate rejected SB 1647, a bill that would have created Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts, K–12 education savings accounts for all Oklahoma students. Although a disappointing outcome, Gov. Kevin Stitt and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat have declared they will continue fighting for Oklahoma families to have access to universal choice.
The Pennsylvania House Education Committee passed HB 2169 by a vote 10-4. This proposal establishes “Lifeline Scholarships” or education savings accounts for students in military households, with individualized education plans, or that reside in “low-achieving” school districts.
On March 30, the South Carolina senate passed S 935 which now heads to the House. If passed, S 935 would create the state’s first education savings account program, which would enable children to use state funds for a wide variety of approved educational options. The program is capped at 5,000 students in the program’s first year. While this cap increases over time to 15,000 students in the 2025–26 school year, the program is limited in perpetuity to only 15,000 students.
On March 30, the State of North Carolina filed a motion to dismiss in Kelly v. State, a lawsuit brought by the North Carolina Association of Educators challenging the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship” voucher program. Kelly v. State, County of Wake General Court of Justice, Case No. 20 CVS 8346. Pending.
On March 30, 2022, a motion for preliminary injunction was filed against the best and broadest education savings account program in the country, Hope Scholarships in West Virginia. The Kanawha Circuit Court has set April 19, 2022, as a hearing date for this motion and all pending motions. Other motions to be heard that day will include motion to intervene on behalf of parents by the Institute for Justice, a motion to consolidate (the case is currently divided into multiple like cases), and motions to dismiss the case filed by the West Virginia Attorney General. Beaver v. Moore, Circuit Court of Kanawha County, Case No. 22-P-24.