The Year of School Choice

2021 School Choice Wins (updated)

For the latest updates on school choice victories in 2021, visit: https://www.federationforchildren.org/school-choice-victories/

 

Arizona

Multiple improvements to existing programs

June 30, 2021: Arizona K-12 Budget Boosts School Choice Programs

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, applauds Arizona legislators in the Senate and House for their passage of a state budget including key improvements to the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, Arizona’s charter schools, open enrollment, and Lexie’s Law Tax Credit program.

Statement from Steve Smith, Arizona State Director, American Federation for Children:“We’re pleased that Arizona continues to be a national school choice leader by passing a budget with several key improvements to crucial programs. Highlights include much needed changes to the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, significant advancements to help continue to grow our great charter schools, more clarity and transparency in the open enrollment program, and increasing the cap for the Lexie’s Law special needs tax credit program. Although significant gains were made in the budget, it is disappointing that three Republican State Representatives, and every Democrat, voted to block low-income families from accessing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which would have been the largest expansion of school choice in Arizona history.”2021

Arizona State Budget School Choice Wins:

  • Quicker access into the program for ESA families by modifying the old “100 Day Rule”
  • Allows low-income students attending failing public schools to switch to the ESA program immediately
  • New funding for charter school transportation which will allow more students to get to their charter schools with easier access
  • More dollars for Results Based Funding for high-performing charter schools allowing them to serve more students
  • Increased transparency in Arizona’s Open Enrollment system
  • Adds $1 million to the Lexie’s Law Tuition Tax Credit program serving children with special needsDownload

Arkansas

New Tax Credit Scholarship Program

HB 1371 and SB 680

https://t.co/XLbFBTPdhy

April 21, 2021: Lawmakers Pass School Choice Legislation in Arkansas

Today the Arkansas House passed SB680 which creates a tax credit scholarship program to expand educational opportunities in the state. The bill passed by a vote of 52-40 and will head to the governor’s desk.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children:

“This is a momentous day in Arkansas. The need for school choice has never been greater and it’s exciting to see policymakers step up to empower families and students. This program will help students in the state of Arkansas have access to the school that best fits their learning needs. A huge thank you to Senator Jonathan Dismang and Representative Ken Bragg for sponsoring this bill to expand educational opportunity for students in the great state of Arkansas.”

Details:

  • SB 680 creates a $2 million tax credit program
  • Students eligible at or below 200% of poverty
  • 100% tax credit for donors

 

Florida

Scholarship Expansion and New Education Savings Account Program

SB 48 and HB 7045

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2021/48

May 11, 2021: Governor DeSantis Signs Florida School Choice Expansion Bill

The American Federation for Children applauds Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing into law today the landmark legislation that vastly expands Florida’s need-based and special needs scholarships so that more children will have access to educational options.

Florida leads the nation in the number of families accessing choice programs and this expansion signed by Governor DeSantis today reassures families desperately awaiting a scholarship. They have the opportunity in future years to have the very best educational options for their children.

This bipartisan legislation, a major priority of Governor DeSantis, will be a lifesaver for families looking for other options for their children’s K-12 grade educational experiences. Students with learning disabilities will have more options in getting an individualized educational plan to meet their unique needs. And families who may be economically disadvantaged awaiting a scholarship, beginning this fall, will have the chance to enroll their child in a school of their choice.

Statement from Governor Ron DeSantis:

“This legislation creates historical levels of flexibility in both schooling and educational services for millions of low-income families and families of students with unique abilities. There will be more opportunities for families and more children throughout the state of Florida as a result of this legislation. That is a good thing. Florida is not a standing pact. We are on the offense when it comes to more opportunities.”

Details:

  • SB48/HB 7045 streamlines Florida’s choice programs and application processes
  • All students with disabilities enrolled in the Family Empowerment Scholarship program will be able to access a customized education
  • Expands household income eligibility as well as increases the number of scholarships available each year so that tens of thousands of more children will have access to educational choices
  • Increases the funded scholarship amounts by aligning the awarded amount with the public school per-student funding levels
  • Need-based scholarships may be used for digital devices and internet access

 

Georgia

Special Needs Voucher Expansion

SB 47

https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59080

March 25, 2021: Georgia Lawmakers Advance Legislation to Expand Educational Opportunity

Today, lawmakers in Georgia advanced a bill that will expand the Georgia special needs scholarship program. Senate Bill 47 passed the Georgia House on a 91-71 vote with bipartisan support.

Statement from Christy Riggins, Georgia Field Director for the American Federation for Children:

“Today, a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers prioritized Georgia’s children with special needs over the fear tactics of special interests. As a result of this vote, thousands of children waiting in the margins for educational relief will no longer be excluded from a law that was always meant for their benefit. While credit for this victory belongs to the countless families who fought hard for this measure, we also applaud the bold actions of those lawmakers who rejected tremendous outside pressure to put dollars ahead of students.”

Details:

  • Senate Bill 47 expands the eligible pool of students for the special needs scholarship program to include those students with a 504 plan AND specific conditions
  • These changes will increase the number of Georgia students eligible for the program by approximately 50,000 or more children

 

Indiana

Voucher and Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion and New Education Savings Account Program

HB 1005

https://legiscan.com/IN/text/HB1005/2021

April 22, 2021: Indiana Passes Monumental School Choice Expansion Package

The American Federation for Children applauds the Indiana Legislature for putting students first and expanding eligibility for the state’s voucher and tax credit programs, increasing the scholarship amounts for all eligible students and for creating a new ESA program that will serve Hoosier students with special needs through the passage of the state budget. The budget also increases per student charter funding.

Statement from Betsy Wiley, President of the Institute for Quality Education:

“Ten years after Indiana passed the Choice Scholarship Program, the state legislature has acted, once again to make Indiana a national leader in K-12 education by expanding educational options to many more hard-working middle-class Hoosier families and students.”

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children:

“Now more than ever, families need access to options that meet their individual learning needs, and the Indiana legislature has stepped up to fill that need. This historic expansion of choice brings Indiana back to the top as a national model for student-focused policy. We applaud the great work of our in-state partners at the Institute for Quality Education (IQE) for going to bat for thousands of Indiana families who will now have an opportunity to access a great education that meets their needs. We are grateful for the commitment of legislative leaders like Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Rod Bray as well as Governor Holcomb for putting the needs of families first in these unprecedented times.”

Details:

  • Passed as part of the State Biennial Budget
  • Voucher and tax credit eligibility increased to 300% of the amount to qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch
  • All eligible voucher students will now qualify for a 90% (of state funding) scholarship
  • Tax Credit cap increases to $17.5M in FY 22 and $18.5M in FY 23
  • New $10M special needs ESA to be implemented in the 22-23 school year
  • Increases the per student charter and innovation network grant to $1,000 in FY 22 and $1,250 in FY 23

 

Iowa

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion

HB 847

https://legiscan.com/IA/bill/SF159/2021

Last night, Governor Reynolds signed HF 847 into law, which will give more children access to education freedom in the state. Iowa joins a growing list of states across the country in what has become a momentous year for school choice. This legislation will grow the state’s existing tax credit scholarship program and improve access to public school options.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children:

“The Governor laid out an ambitious agenda at the start of the session to expand educational options for students in Iowa. She and the legislature succeeded in achieving greater private school choice through the largest increase ever in the school tuition organization tax credit and a doubling of the parental tuition tax credit, as well as an expansion of open enrollment and charter schools. These changes are a huge win for Iowa students. We would like to thank Governor Reynolds for her unwavering commitment to students and families. Thanks to her leadership, thousands of children will benefit from additional educational opportunities in Iowa.”

Details:

  • House File 847 as amended by the Senate this week will increase the cap on the scholarship program from $15 million to $20 million on January 1, 2022 – the largest ever increase in the scholarship program’s history
  • The tax credit for donations will be increased from 65% to 75%
  • HF 847 includes a doubling of the parental tuition tax credit from $250 to $500 per student. It also makes homeschool families eligible for the tax credit.

Kansas

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion

HB 2134

http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/HB2134/ 

Kentucky

New Education Savings Account Program

HB 563

https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/21rs/hb563.html

March 29, 2021: Kentucky Legislature Overrides Governor Beshear’s Veto, Becomes 28th State with Private School Choice Program

Tonight the Kentucky Legislature voted to override Governor Beshear’s veto of House Bill 563. The bill will now become law, making Kentucky the 28th state to enact a private school choice program.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children:

“Today lawmakers in Kentucky did the right thing by rejecting a veto by their Governor that would have denied thousands of children in the Bluegrass State access to an educational environment that best serves their needs. We applaud members of the Kentucky Legislature who stood up and fought on behalf of children and families. Kentucky will join 27 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in providing families with private school options and putting kids before special interests.”

Details:

  • HB 563 now becomes law, creating a $25 million tax credit ESA program
  • Students whose family income is equal to or less than 175% of that required for free or reduced lunch would be eligible for the program
  • Private school choice would be available to students in counties with a population more than 90,000
  • Kentucky becomes the 28th state in the country with a private school choice program

 

Missouri (pending)

Montana

Tax Credit Scholarship and Education Savings Account

HB279 and HB 329

https://legiscan.com/MT/bill/HB329/2021?utm_campaign=rss&guid=4lC3rEKuh8A7kRcZZdvEjU

Nevada

Statement from Valeria Gurr, Nevada State Director:

“Today is a great day for students and families in Nevada. Thank you to the Assembly and Senate Republican conferences for focusing on expanding school options to students, especially those who need it most. A special thank you to Senators Kieckhefer, Gansert, Buck, Pickard, and Hammond, and Assembly Members Roberts and Tolles for all of their support to ensure children in this state have a shot at a high-quality education and access to school options that meet their individual needs. We truly appreciate how hard these legislators fought and worked in a bipartisan way to increase funding for both the Opportunity Scholarship Program and Title I charter schools. Parents across the state are grateful for the courageous lawmakers willing to fight for families.

Also, I would like to recognize the alliance formed with the business community led by John Guedry and Nevada Mining Association President Tyre Gray who made this win for students possible. Lastly, a very special thank you to our allies, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Charter School Association of Nevada, Power2Parent, ExcelinEd, the parents, and all the schools for additional support.”

Details:

  • SB463 is also included which will apply $3.8 million to hold a dozen charter schools harmless from funding drops
  • Title I charters will receive a one-time appropriation from federal funding for $15 million
  • The Opportunity Scholarship Program will be expanded to $22.8 million for the next biennium and a harmful provision preventing children from entering the program was erased

New Hampshire

Education Savings Account

June 24, 2021: New Hampshire Lawmakers Expand Educational Opportunity 

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, applauds New Hampshire lawmakers for passing a budget that includes Education Freedom Accounts. Today, the NH House voted to include the measure in the state’s budget, and it will now head to the Governor’s desk.

Statement from Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children:

“Children and families in New Hampshire are the latest beneficiaries of the 2021 school choice wave, which has led to more than a dozen states enacting or expanding school choice legislation in recent months. Thanks to the bold lawmakers who put kids before politics, more families in New Hampshire will benefit from educational freedom, regardless of family income. We want to thank those lawmakers, as well as the many in-state advocates, such as Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, for their tireless efforts on behalf of families.”

Details:

  • The Education Freedom Accounts can be used for tuition, tutoring, online learning, textbooks, and other educational needs
  • Families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program
  • The State Department of Education projects the expansion will save the state more than $350 million over the next decade

 

Ohio (details coming soon)

Oklahoma

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion

SB 1080

https://legiscan.com/OK/bill/Sb1080/2021

Today, the Oklahoma House of Representatives gave final approval to Senate Bill 1080, which expands the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act, by a 63-36 vote.  This program provides tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to scholarship-granting organizations and to public schools which include charter schools.

SB 1080, which passed the Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 36-11, increases the amount of tax credits available for scholarship program donations from $3.5 million annually to $25 million per year. It raises the amount of tax credits available for donations to public schools from $1.5 million annually to $25 million.

Statement from Jennifer Carter, Oklahoma Senior Advisor for the American Federation for Children:

“Thanks to the bold leadership of Governor Kevin Stitt, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and Speaker of the House Charles McCall, SB 1080 is the largest expansion of a school choice tax credit program in the country so far this year and makes clear Oklahoma puts kids and their parents first. The Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship has helped many of the neediest children in Oklahoma, including homeless children and trauma survivors. This expansion means thousands of additional children will be able to access the school that best fits their needs and makes possible the opportunities they deserve. The overwhelming support received by SB 1080 in both chambers of the Legislature shows that Oklahoma lawmakers understand this program changes the trajectories of children’s lives for the better and benefits those children’s families for generations to come.”

Pennsylvania

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion

June 30, 2021: Pennsylvania Passes $40 Million Expansion to Scholarship Program

The American Federation for Children applauds Pennsylvania lawmakers for expanding the state’s K-12 Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program as part of the state budget. Governor Wolf signed Act 26 into law this morning.

Statement from Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children:

“We are elated to see this tax credit scholarship program in Pennsylvania expand so that more children can benefit from the power of educational freedom. This expansion represents important progress for educational opportunity in Pennsylvania where, for years, thousands of children have been turned away from opportunity due to program caps that prevented scholarships from getting to families in need. We congratulate the families who will benefit from this expansion and the state and local advocates who fought valiantly to make it possible. We would like to thank Senator Scott Martin who led the fight in support of SB1, helping to create the momentum for this historic $40M expansion.”

Details:

  • The K-12 Educational Improvement Tax Credit program will increase by $40 million making it $175 million in total
  • This expansion will empower an estimated 13,000 additional PA kids with scholarship opportunities, no matter their ZIP codes

South Dakota

Tax Credit Scholarship Expansion

SB 175

https://sdlegislature.gov/Session/Bill/22268

March 5, 2021: South Dakota Advances Legislation to Expand Educational Opportunity

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, applauds the South Dakota Legislature for passing legislation today that improves the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program. Governor Noem, a strong proponent for expanding educational opportunity for children, is expected to sign the bill into law.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children:

“Today marks another victory for children and families in South Dakota. We would like to thank Senator Jim Stalzer and Representative Jon Hansen for their tireless work on behalf of students in South Dakota, and Governor Noem for her leadership.

‘Initially passed in 2016, the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program is already serving hundreds of students. This legislation will expand that program to better meet the demand of families, many of whom struggled to continue to afford a private education during COVID. In addition, under the existing law, some children in a family were eligible for a scholarship while others were not. Now the entire family can attend the same school of the parents’ choice.”

Details:

  • Senate Bill 175 passed the Senate on 30 – 5 vote and passed the House yesterday on a 60 – 9 vote.
  • The bill removes the requirement that an eligible student needs to have attended a public school in the prior year or that they be entering Kindergarten, first grade or ninth grade.
  • Now any income eligible child in any grade, including one already in private school, is eligible to receive a scholarship.
  • The bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk, and she is expected to sign it into law.

 

West Virginia

New Education Savings Account Program

HB 2013

http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=2013&year=2021&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill

Details:

Read more about this program as explained by our friends at Ed Choice: https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/programs/west-virginia-hope-scholarship-program/

 

Legislation passed, awaiting governor’s signature: 

Missouri

Education Savings Account

HB 349

https://house.mo.gov/bill.aspx?bill=HB349&year=2021&code=R

 

 

 

Sources: 

The American Federation for Children

Press

Education Freedom Institute

active legislation map