State of Choice: 2024 Legislative Session in Review

This year, five states created new programs and five expanded existing programs. Of the new programs, two offer universal eligibility after phase-in. Education savings account (ESA) proposals continued to dominate statehouse debates, with about 77% of 2024 school choice legislation relating to this type of program. In all, EdChoice tracked 83 bills in 30 states having to do with ESA, voucher, refundable tax credit, and tax-credit scholarship legislation.


Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB 129, the Creating Hope & Opportunity for Our Students’ Education (CHOOSE) Act into law in March, making Alabama the 11th state to enact a policy of universal or near universal education freedom. Like some other states enacting universal choice, Alabama’s program will be phased in over several years before it becomes available to all students. In the first year, students from low- and middle-income families will be eligible to receive ESAs valued up to $7,000 to fund tuition or other approved educational goods and services, like curriculum, tutoring, computers, software, and more.


With Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature, Georgia enacted The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act (SB 233), the state’s first ESA and third choice program overall. The program will be accessible to students in the lowest performing 25% of schools with accounts being initially valued at $6,500 each.


As of the first of the year, the Invest in Kids Scholarship Tax Credit Program is no more. The tax-credit scholarship program was serving nearly 10,000 low-income, mostly Black and Hispanic children, along with over 1,000 underprivileged Jewish children, among others. Late in 2023, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and state lawmakers refused to renew the program, allowing it to sunset.


Included in HB 1001 was an expansion to Indiana’s Education Scholarship Account Program, an ESA for students with special needs. Siblings of participating students will now qualify for the program and participating families may now use account funds on curriculum.


Kentucky has a rare provision unique to the Commonwealth in its state constitution severely limiting the legality of educational choice programs there. This year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to clear the legal path for choice programs. Bluegrass State voters will now have the opportunity to ratify or reject this amendment as a ballot measure.


Louisiana became the 12th state to enact universal or near universal choice when Gov. Jeff Landry signed SB 313 into law in June. The Giving All True Opportunity to RISE (GATOR) Program will be universally available after a multi-year phase-in and will initially be available to those already participating in the state’s voucher program for students from low-income families. Account funds may be used to cover varying educational expenses, such as tuition, curriculum, textbooks, testing fees, educational services and therapies, and more. Account values will soon be determined by the state’s board of education.


Mississippi renewed funding for the state’s Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Education Savings Account program this year, ensuring the program is funded until 2028.


Signed into law in May, SB 727 expanded The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program on several fronts. The program’s geographical borders will now include students statewide and siblings of participating students are eligible. The legislation also increased the funding cap from $50 million to $75 million, and raised the income eligibility from 200% to 300% of the Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) rate.


With LB 1402 being signed into law this year, Nebraska’s Opportunity Scholarship tax-credit scholarship program will be replaced with Nebraska Education Scholarships, a voucher program with accounts valued at $8,584. The program will be available to students who previously received a scholarship under the Opportunity Scholarship Act, siblings of participating students, children of active duty or reserve military family transferring into Nebraska from another state or country, or those enrolled in qualified schools with a household income not exceeding 230% of the federal poverty line (FPL) ($71,760 for a family of four in 2024). First-time scholarship recipients must be entering kindergarten or ninth grade in a qualified school, the first-grade level offered by the qualified school or be transferring from a public school after at least one full semester immediately prior to enrollment.


Oklahoma lawmakers enacted two pieces of legislation affecting educational choice programs.

HB 3388 updated the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, enacted in 2023. Improvements included shifting the program to operate on a fiscal year instead of a tax year, excluding the credit from inclusion as taxable income or being used to offset tax debt, fees, or liabilities, adjustments to the application process, and including eligibility for students attending schools exclusively serving students experiencing homelessness and schools that primarily serve low-income students.

SB 358 expanded the Lindsey Nicole Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. The law removed the prior-public requirement and expands eligibility to students adopted while in the custody of other agencies or federally recognized tribes and students enrolling in schools exclusively serving students experiencing homelessness. Students in out-of-home placements are not required to have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or service plan to qualify for LNH.

South Dakota

SB 72 increased the annual limit of tax credits that an insurance company may claim through the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program from $3.5 million to $5 million.


Last year, Utah enacted an ESA with universal eligibility, but with funding constraints. This year, the Beehive State significantly increased the program’s funding through SB 2, raising the funding cap from $40 million to $80 million. With this increase, an estimated 10,000 students will now be funded eligible, up from 5,000.

Also enacted this year was HB 529, a “clean up” bill for the same program, further clarifying things relating to military and foster care eligibility, participation in public schools, placing the expense appeals process with the Program Manager, ensuring the fiscal appropriation is transferred to the Program Manager in a timely fashion, and allowing the ability to work with the Utah Tax Commission on income verification.


In March, the Wyoming legislature passed legislation creating a broad ESA program. However, through a line-item veto by Gov. Mark Gordon, the eligibility of the new program was significantly limited. With accounts valued at $6,000, the program will be available to families with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty line, making about 21% of the state eligible. It is Wyoming’s first school choice program.