BRIEF: School Choice in the States March 2016

Arizona Michael Chartier @mchart1

The House Appropriations Committee amended SB 1279, formerly a bill for a phase-in universal education savings account (ESA) program, to include only those children who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. The amended bill must now pass a vote on the House floor.


Kansas Michael Chartier @mchart1

HB 2741, a state funding formula for education, was introduced last week. The bill includes a universal ESA for children currently in public schools. Under the program, parents would enter into a written agreement with the treasurer then receive 70 percent of the general state aid provided students in public schools. Funds could be used for tuition and fees, curriculum, textbooks, transportation (up to $750), tutoring services, online education providers, and educational therapies. This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Appropriations and is currently awaiting a hearing.


Maryland – Leslie Hiner @LeslieHiner

The Maryland Education Credit (SB 706) passed the Senate in a 25–19 vote on March 16 and was heard in the House Ways & Means Committee on March 31. The bill would create a tax-credit scholarship program for students to attend private schools of choice. Scholarships would be funded by charitable contributions by businesses to scholarship granting organizations (SGOs). Businesses may claim up to 60 percent of their contribution during the taxable year, and up to $200,000. The bill awaits further action in the House.

Maryland became the 30th school choice state on March 29 when legislative conference committee inserted a school voucher program into SB 190, the state’s operating budget. The bill passed 130–7 and does not require further action. The program will be effective July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. The voucher, called the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) program, provides $5 million in scholarships for students eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. The Maryland State Department of Education will administer the program.


Mississippi Michael Chartier @mchart1

The Mississippi Senate passed an amended version of HB 33 regarding the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Program, an ESA program for students with special needs. Currently, students must have an IEP in the 18 months prior to applying for an ESA. This bill would extend that period back 5 years. The bill is back in the House awaiting a concurrence vote.


Montana Michael Charter @mchart1

Judge David Ortley from the Montana Eleventh Judicial District Court issued a temporary injunction on March 31 prohibiting the Montana Department of Revenue from implementing a rule that blocked religious schools from participating in the Tax Credits for Contributions to Student Scholarship Organizations program. The judge ruled that both the U.S. and Montana Constitutions protect the establishment or free exercise of religion and that the proposed rule would hinder a parent’s ability to choose a religious education for their child. The judge said he issued the injunction because the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of the case.


New Hampshire Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

In a 208–143 vote, the New Hampshire House passed HB 1637, a bill to clarify that towns without public schools may send their students to non-religious private schools, in addition to neighboring public schools. The bill is now awaiting committee hearing in the Senate.

This issue arose when the Department of Education through the state’s Attorney General brought suit against the Town of Croydon, population 764, attempting to stop Croydon from allowing five students to attend a Montessori school. The Sullivan County Superior Court denied a plea for a preliminary injunction against the program in December 2015. The court heard oral arguments in the case, Department of Education vs Croydon School Board on March 9, and the parties are currently awaiting a decision by the court.


South Dakota Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program into law on March 25, codifying the Mount Rushmore state’s first school choice program and the nation’s 60th. South Dakota is now the 29th school choice state. The Partners in Education Tax Credit Program—championed by Sen. Phyllis Heineman—is a statewide tax-credit scholarship for children from low-income households, which will begin offering scholarships in 2016–17. Find all the details of this program here.


Virginia Brittany Corona @BrittanyLCorona

The Virginia legislature passed HB 389, a bill to create the Parental Choice in Education Savings Account (PCESA) program, on March 11. Gov. Terry McAuliffe must sign or veto the bill by April 11. After narrow defeat in 2015, Virginia may become the sixth state to adopt innovative education savings accounts (ESAs). If signed, the PCESA—championed by Del. Dave LaRock— will provide families of children with learning disabilities (§ 22.1-214 of the Virginia Code) the ability to fully tailor their children’s education to their individual learning needs. Get all the details on this potential new program on our blog.


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