Ep. 392: State Updates – September 2023

October 10, 2023

The EdChoice state team gives us a summary of all the recent happenings in the states. It’s been an exciting month with North Carolina expanding the Opportunity Scholarship. Find out more in the podcast!

Joey Magana: Welcome to the next edition of state updates here on the State Update podcast. Some big news obviously that I’m sure everyone has heard of right now, and that is North Carolina. So without further ado, I will let our prestigious southerner talk about North Carolina: Nathan.

Nathan Sanders: All right, thank you, Joey. Thank you for the prestigious southerner introduction, I appreciate that. Yeah, so huge news out of North Carolina. It’s been long awaited all year, all session legislatures kind of been going back and forth and they finally earlier this summer decided that the Opportunity Scholarship expansion was going to be fit into the budget. And then after a long summer, they finally got their draft budget out and sort of pushed it through the legislature and they kept the Opportunity Scholarship expansion universal school choice in there. And there was lots of worries over sort of what were the next steps going to be after it made its way through the legislature. Was the governor going to veto it? Was he going to allow it? Was he going to sign it? No one really knew what was going on. But then right there when it hit his desk, basically the day of, he decided the budget as a whole, which included that universal school choice, he was going to decide to let it pass. He wasn’t going to sign it, but allow it to just become law after a couple of weeks.

So that’s great news. Tons and tons of families in North Carolina will now be eligible. Universal eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarships expansion, which would allow for a family to choose any school of their choice. It is income tiered, so the lower income families will be eligible first in that first wave, that first tier. But like I said earlier, it will serve tons of families in North Carolina so it’s a huge win. They’ve been fighting for it all year and applications will open up next year. So that’s extremely exciting to kind of finish off the summer, finish off the year really with that huge, huge win out of North Carolina. And with that, it kind of sets the tone for next session, especially in the south.

There’s some talks about some southern states looking to expand educational opportunities. So Governor Kay Ivey at Alabama has basically been very vocal about doing something extremely ambitious when it comes to Universal ESA. She wants to sort of compete with Arkansas there in the south, so that’s a wonderful news. And I know some of the leadership in Mississippi, Louisiana, as well want to be extremely ambitious, especially with some new leadership coming in next year after both of those states had their election. So tons of things happening next session. Lots of opportunity. I’m extremely excited as a southerner and I’m also extremely excited that North Carolina gave us the last final bang of the year. So that’s my update for the south.

Joey Magana: So North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Arkansas. So it’s pretty exciting to see kind of those dominoes fall. Another southernish state, southwestern, whatever you want to call it, Caitlin, Texas has announced their special session now, finally, given us dates. Now there’s been a lot of hubbub about what Texas may or may not do. So what’s kind of the update there?

Caitlin Lee: Yeah, so special session in consistence with [inaudible] scheduled for October 16th. I think Texas would prefer not to be called part of the south or the southwest. They kind of like to say that they’re completely independent of the rest of the country, so they’d be offended there, Joey. But the governor has already hit the road again. He’s been doing Friday night lights tailgates all across the state. He’s also doing a lot of engagement with faith leaders at different churches on Sundays, looking at how school choice is the biblical thing for parents and families. So he’s really pushing and continuing to show that there will be consequences for legislative leaders that choose not to support his number one priority, which is school choice for families.

So he will call them back into session over and over he stated, including after the election cycle has begun. So that’s kind of what’s going on in Texas. Illinois was also going to be going into session this fall, October 24th, and that’s going to be a veto session, but it is a pretty big deal since it is going to be when the fate of their school choice program is decided. That’s kind of all I have at the moment.

Joey Magana: Yeah, I know there’s not a lot of high expectations for their one small school choice program to last, but as Marc would say, it’s not over until it’s over. So we’ll see what happens there. But speaking of which, the program that just will not die, thankfully, is Lifeline in Pennsylvania. So Marc, what’s kind of the update in Pennsylvania?

Marc LeBlond: Thanks for that, Joey. When we left off, I think the Senate had passed in the fiscal code, Lifeline scholarships or Pass scholarships as they’ve come to be known, which was supported by Governor Shapiro on the campaign trail as a candidate. Supported again on Fox News earlier this year. And then just in August, he tripled down on saying nice things in public about the proposal on WGAL. He said, this doesn’t take anything away from public schools, it’s additive. It doesn’t subtract anything, in fact, in this budget, we’re investing more in public schools as a result of this budget then at any point in Pennsylvania history. So why not add some additional resources to help those students who are struggling?

And that was a big sticking point, Joey, with this program that it would be a separate appropriation, it wouldn’t be tied to the basic education funding formula, that it would be its own income source. So it remains to be seen. The house goes back into session tomorrow. We’re recording this on Monday, September 25th. They’re back on Tuesday and Wednesday the 26th, the 27th, and then most of October. So stay tuned to see what happens in Pennsylvania.

Joey Magana: Great. Well, the year is crazily coming to a close, but still lots of things happening, and then obviously preparations for the next year, which Nathan kind of gave us a sneak peek of in the South, but lots going on all across the country. The education momentum is very real and I think will carry on into the upcoming years, not just next year. So stay tuned for the next update and we’ll see you soon.