Each month, the EdChoice policy team breaks down into bite-sized pieces all of the past month’s educational choice-related legislative movement.
The year of universal school choice continues, as legislatures in two additional states, Arkansas and Florida, took giant leaps to expand educational freedom for all students in their states!
Here’s what happened in March 2023.
In March, state legislators passed SB 294 (The Learns Act), which Gov. Sanders signed into law. This sweeping reform creates the Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program—an education savings account (ESA). It would make all (presently almost a half million) students eligible by 2025. This bill also increases teacher pay and raises the Philanthropic Investment in the Arkansas Kids Scholarship Program’s total tax credit cap, taking it from $2 million to $6 million with a 5 percent automatic escalator.
March went out like a lion as Gov. DeSantis signed the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program’s expansion and conversion into law. SB 202/HB 1 expanded Florida’s targeted voucher program into a universally eligible education savings account. With this bold act by the legislature and governor, Florida now offers broadly flexible educational choice to 2.7 million students.
In March, SB 292 was introduced in California, an ESA that would become universal four years following enactment. The program would offer students $17,000 in the first year to be spent on private school tuition and other educational expenses and would be adjusted annually. In March, the bill was scheduled for a hearing on April 12 but was canceled at the request of the author for the time being.
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 would allow prorated income tax credits for taxpayers who use home-based education for qualified children. The bill did not move in the House Committee on Education and appears to have died.
HB 6040 would establish education savings accounts (ESAs) in the state, and HB 5535 would set up a study on the impact of ESAs. SB 277 would remove prohibitions against a Board of Education from establishing a school voucher program, and HB 5545 would initiate a study on the state and local fiscal impact of a school voucher program. HB 6179 would establish that money follows the child for all education funding. These bills were all referred to their respective committees and did not move in March.
HB 5424, which would establish a tax-credit scholarship program, received a hearing in February but similarly did not move in committee in March.
SB 233 would have created a targeted education savings account for an estimated 400,000 whose schools were not meeting their needs. The bill passed the Senate, but unfortunately failed in the House.
HB 1272, which would establish a school voucher program for Hawaii families with incomes not exceeding four times the federal poverty line, did not move within the House Education and Finance Committees in March.
In March, SB 1125 passed the full legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Little. With this step, Idaho students will now be able to attend the public school of their choice, regardless of their ZIP Code.
Also in March, Idaho policymakers introduced SB 1161, which would expand the Empowering Parents Program (Microgrant), offering greater flexibility and more purchasing power for parents. The bill passed the Senate and awaits action in the House Education Committee.
HB 1135, which would create the Education Savings Account Act—a targeted ESA for students from households earning 2.5 times or less the income threshold for free and reduced-price lunch—did not move within its assigned committee in March. Additionally, House Bills 1573 and 3672, which would create an income-based ESA, and HB 2608, which would create a universal ESA, did not move within their respective committees in March.
State budget bill HB 1001 would increase the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program’s eligibility from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program income limits. It would also eliminate the other pathways for eligibility, such as being a foster care student, being a student with special needs and being assigned to an “F”-graded public school. Eligibility is currently 77 percent, but these changes would make the program nearly universal at approximately 90-–95 percent of students eligible. The expansion awaits action in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Stay tuned for an update next month.
SB 83, the companion to HB 2218, would create an ESA (phased in over three years) for students from households at 600 percent or less of the federal poverty level. This would give educational access to the vast majority of Kansas students. The bill awaits action on amendments in Conference Committee. Unfortunately, Gov. Kelly has signaled that she will veto upon final passage.
HB 174, which would amend Kentucky’s constitution to allow for school choice. In March, the bill was taken from the House Rules Committee and recommitted to Appropriations and Revenue.
HB 9, which would create an ESA for students with exceptionalities to attend non-public schools, did not move in March.
In March, Louisiana policymakers introduced HB 98, which would expand public school choice and create near universal education savings account. The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.
SF 939 and HF 768 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. SF 1000, SF 1210, HF 1109, and HF 1908 are all income-based ESA proposals. None of this legislation moved in March.
SB 255 would create a means-tested ESA program. In March, the bill was passed by the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.
SB 118 would increase the limit of the state’s tax-credit scholarship program to $5 million, allowing for more participation in choice. The bill did not move in March.
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. Most recently, it was placed on Select File.
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. The bill did not move in March.
Previously, HB 367 was written to expand the eligibility of the state’s Education Freedom Account Program from 300 percent to 500 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL). The bill was recently amended to increase that percentage from 300 percent to 350 percent of FPL. It passed the House as amended in March. Also making its way through the legislature is HB 464, another potential expansion of the Education Freedom Account Program. The bill also passed the House in March.
HB 480 would establish a universal ESA. The bill did not move in March.
SB 109 would create Education Freedom Accounts, an ESA with universal eligibility for New Mexico K–12 students. The bill did not move in March.
Late in March, North Carolina lawmakers introduced H 420, which would expand the Personal Education Student Account for Children with Disabilities program to a universal ESA. The bill has been referred to Appropriations Committee. S 406, which was also introduced in late March, would expand eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarships Voucher program to universal access, with income- tiered priority. The bill has been referred to Education Committee.
SB 11, which would expand eligibility for the Educational Choice Scholarship (voucher) program to universal access and increases the K–12 Home Education Tax Credit from $250 to $2,000, awaits further action in the Senate after third reading in the Education Committee.
HB 11 has been introduced, which would create the Backpack Scholarship Program, an ESA which could be spent at public or non-public schools, did not move in March.
HB 1935 and HB 2775 are a packaged deal, creating a refundable tax credit for educational expenses. HB 1935 contains the portion regarding the refundable tax credit, and HB 2775 contains funding for public schools along with teacher pay raises. Both bills have passed the House and Senate but must go back to the House to consider amendments.
SB 822 makes changes to the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship to remove the prior public school requirement and allow for year-round application. The bill did not move in March.
HB 2830, HB 2560 and SB 260 were filed in January, and all create education savings account programs in Oregon. The bills did not move in March.
In March, Rep. Ed Neilson (D – Philly) introduced HB 514, which would create a targeted ESA for students with disabilities, students from military families and students whose schools don’t meet their needs. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship and has been referred to the House Education Committee.
Co-sponsorship memos for the Lifeline Scholarship program, which would create a targeted $7,500 ESA supported by Gov. Josh Shapiro, as well as a constitutional amendment to allow all education funding to follow the child, did not see any movement in March.
H. 5637 is an ESA that would cover numerous allowable expenses for qualifying students. Scholarships shall not exceed $6,000 per student and vary in total based on family income, with special provisions for students with disabilities. S. 0263, is the Senate companion bill. Neither of them moved in March.
S. 261 would establish a low-income ESA. It also did not move in March.
SB 0285 would create a tax-credit scholarship program for families whose income does not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty line. The bill passed the Senate in March and was most recently referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
SB 0039 would 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 did not move in March.
HB 1234 would create an Education Scholarship Account program, a universal voucher with a three-year phase-in. The bill did not move in March.
SB 0638: SB 0638, a voucher expansion, passed the House at the end of the month.
HB 0433: In March, the bill expanding Tennesse’s voucher program, was placed on the calendar in the Education Administration Committee for 4/5/2023.
HB 0559: The bill expanding Tennessee’s voucher program was most recently placed on the Regular Calendar.
SB 8: A nearly universal ESA, SB 8 would offer scholarships in the amount of $8,000 to participating students. The bill was reported favorably out of committee at the end of the month. The House companion bill is HB 5261.
HB 2114: This bill is a universal ESA that would offer $10,000 toward allowable expenses per participating student. In March, the bill was referred to the Committee on Public Education.
HB 2817: This bill would establish an ESA for students who are educationally disadvantaged, have a disability or failed certain assessment instruments. In March, the bill was referred to the Committee on Public Education.
SB 176: SB 176 allows school choice through a tax-credit scholarship program. In March, the bill was left pending in Committee.
HB 619: We want to issue a correction from last month. HB 619 is a bill that would establish a tax-credit scholarship program, not an education savings account. The bill did not move in March.
In February, legislators introduced H 405, which would create a universal voucher for students to attend public or private schools of their choice. The bill did not move in March.
HB 1615 would make more than 94,000 students in Washington eligible for an ESA, with priority given to eligible students with a disability, from low-income families, who are enrolled in public schools identified as challenged in need of improvement or have a sibling participating in the program. The bill did not move in March.