BRIEF: School Choice in the States, May 2018
LEGISLATION AND LITIGATION
SB 18-083 was postponed indefinitely in Colorado’s House Education Committee. The bill, which would have created an income tax credit for private school tuition as well as for the funding of a private school scholarship, previously passed the Senate.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal in Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education. Originally filed in 2009, this case alleges that the state has breached its constitutional duty under Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution to make “adequate provision” “for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” Allegedly, school choice programs disrupt uniformity and contribute to a less than adequate level of funding for public schools. The case is currently being briefed. Further action of the court is pending.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 217, a bill which nearly doubles the amount of tax credits available for the state’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit.
The Iowa legislature passed SF 2417, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it last month. The bill increased the School Tuition Organization Tax Credit program by increasing the tax credit cap by $1 million (from $12 million to $13 million). Additionally, the bill raised the income threshold to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
The New Hampshire House Finance Committee voted 14-12 to recommend “interim study” on its education savings account (ESA) bill, SB 193. The House adopted the committee recommendation by a vote of 170-159. The next day, a motion to reconsider failed 165-172. In a last-ditch effort to save the ESA bill, the NH Senate added the ESA language to HB 1636, but the House voted it down 168-173.
In more positive news from the Granite State, the New Hampshire Senate passed HB 1686, a bill expanding the state’s tax-credit scholarship program to allow donors to scholarship organizations to receive 85 percent tax credits against the Interest and Dividends tax. It’s next stop is back to the House for concurrence.
On May 7, the New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments in New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools v. Moses, a case involving school textbooks. This case is important to school choice because it tests the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which held that it is unconstitutional for a state to block a religious entity’s access to a widely available state benefit simply because the entity is religious. The New Mexico Supreme Court previously ruled that private religious schools could not participate in the state’s textbook loan program because it violated the Blaine Amendment found in New Mexico’s state constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision and directed the New Mexico Supreme Court to reconsider. Our partners at Becket Law represent the New Mexico Association of Nonpublic Schools in this case, in support of allowing all schools to access the textbook loan program. Eric Baxter of Becket Law presented oral argument before the New Mexico Supreme Court. A decision is pending.
The Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee passed SB2, a bill to create education savings accounts for students assigned to low-performing schools. Next it heads to the Senate floor.
HB 7055 moved for the first time in four months but was recommended for further study. The bill would increase Rhode Island’s tax-credit scholarship cap from $1.5 million to $5 million.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed HB 4077, a bill that codifies the Exceptional SC program. The bill also increased the cap on tax credits for scholarship contributions from $11 million to $12 million.