School Choice: These Are The States Making It Happen

School choice is what happens when states give parents the ability to choose which school their children would attend. Instead of making kids attend the one school in their district, parents would be free to take their children anywhere they see a better fit. They would also be able to take their education tax dollars with them, using the money as tuition at a private school if they so choose to.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

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school choice states

School choice remains the big-ticket item for many states across America. It really picked up steam when schools began to shutter with no consistent plan on how to get kids back into schools safely. Private schools opened up, much to the chagrin of families attending public schools. The heat was then turned up on schools and school districts that kept remote learning as their number one priority. School choice was now beginning to find a voice and many states began pressing for it.

School choice is what happens when states give parents the ability to choose which school their children would attend. Instead of making kids attend the one school in their district, parents would be free to take their children anywhere they see a better fit. They would also be able to take their education tax dollars with them, using the money as tuition at a private school if they so choose to.

Currently, there are 25 states that have introduced legislation for some form of school choice. Of those, four have passed legislation and in one, the legislation was vetoed. Below is a complete breakdown of each school choice state and where they are in the fight to get school choice for parents and kids.

States Where School Choice Has Passed

Michigan’s School Choice

SB687 is for an Education Savings Account. This bill was put forth and passed but it was vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as she likened the bill to a voucher program. Advocates were ready for her veto, and they have already been hitting the streets hard trying to get enough signatures to overturn Gov. Whitmer’s veto.

Tennessee’s Education Savings Plan

SB 1674 is for an Education Savings Account. The controversial bill recently passed a big test when the Senate Education Committee passed the bill in a 6-2-1 vote. The bill is now headed for the Tennessee Senate floor for final approval to help parents with school choice.

South Dakota’s School Choice Credit

SB 71 is for a Tax Credit Scholarship. This bill was recently passed by the South Dakota House education committee. The bill is to increase the amount of money by 75% that can be given away for educational scholarships to help parents choosing to remove their children from public schools and go to private schools. The bill is next headed to the House floor before it will then head to Governor Kristi Noem’s desk for her signature.

Iowa‘s Education Savings Accounts

SF 128 and SB 3080 are for Education Savings Accounts. SF 128 has already passed the Senate Education Subcommittee. SF 128 would provide current and new non-public school students 50 percent of Iowa’s per-pupil school funding. These funds would be used for educational expenses such as tuition for private schools. SB 3080 is still being heard.

Florida’s School Choice Appoach

SB 1348 is for Scholarships and SB 506 is for Education Savings Accounts. The State Education Committee recently passed SB 1348 by a 6-3 count, simplifying the process for families need to go through when applying for K-12 school choice scholarships.

States Working On School Choice Plans

Arizona Increasing School Choice

Arizona already has its Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA). The ESA’s focus is more toward students with special needs or is in tough situations or lowly graded schools. With the SB 1657 bill, this would be for an Education Savings Account that would affect all students, regardless of the family situation.

Georgia’s $6,000 A Year

HB 999 is a bill that would allow for parents to have an Education Savings Account. As introduced, the state bill would allow for $6,000 per year, per student to be used as needed for school choice.

Hawaii’s School Choice Access

The state’s new HB 2326 would provide student access to nonpublic schools through the new school choice scholarship program. These funds would go to families with proven financial needs and could be used for enrollment into private schools.

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Illinois Making An Amendment

The states SB 3618 bill is an amendment to the Tax Credit Scholarship bill already on the books. This one would kick up the amount that can be used by families from 75% to 100% of the total amount of qualified contributions made by the taxpayer.

Kansas On School Choice

The state HB 2550 bill will establish an Education Savings Account for students to use if they wish to attend any participating private school.

Kentucky Working On ESA

HB 305 looks to establish an Education Savings Account through the amendments in the bill. The amendments not only look to increase the amount of household income necessary to gain educational funds, but it also looks to give more school choice to students.

Louisiana Trying To Create School Choice

HB 33 aims to create a program as well as provide state funding for students and their education who are not enrolled in public schools.

Mississippi Working On Education Savings

HB 874 will establish an Education Savings Account for families looking for more school choices. It will be called the Mississippi Scholarship Act with the goal to provide scholarships for K-12 students who would like their choice of schools.

Missouri Moving Toward School Choice

The states SB 841 will set up an Education Savings Account. These accounts will be funded by monies appropriated by Missouri’s General Assembly for grants to be put into an education savings account. Parents can then use these funds for certain qualifying educational expenses.

Nebraska’s Opportunity Act

The states Opportunity Scholarships Act was introduced as a means to help families fund their schools of choice. The funds can be used for students’ tuition for private schools.

New Hampshire’s School Vouchers

HB 607 was put forth as a school voucher program. The average voucher a family would see annually would be $10,000 and these funds could be taken to a school of choice.

New Jersey School Choice Efforts

AB 613 is a tax credit scholarship program called the “Opportunity Scholarship Act.” This would provide tax credits to any taxpayer who contributes to scholarships for low-income children.

New York’s Education Affordability Act

SB 5573 would establish a tax credit scholarship or the “Education Affordability Act.” This Act would provide tax credits against income tax or corporate franchise taxes for qualified educational investments such as scholarships.

Ohio And Giving Families Options

HB 290 will help establish a school funding formula that will allow families to take their funding amounts with them to any public or private schools they attend.

Oklahoma’s Empowerment Act

SB 1647 will create the Oklahoma Empowerment Act as well as the Oklahoma Empowerment Account Program. The program will be administered by the Office of the State Treasurer and will provide calculations for the amount of State Aid a family is set to receive to support the education of eligible students.

Oregon’s Unlikely School Choice Amendment

SJR 201 is a proposed amendment to the Oregon Constitution that would allow for parents’ school choice. It would also allow for parents who choose nonpublic education to pay for expenses attributed to this education with a school choice account. Given that this bill was proposed by Republicans and Oregon is a uni-party state run by the Democratic Party, it’s unlikely this bill will pass.

Pennsylvania’s Education Savings Accounts

The states HB 1 will establish an Education Savings Account for qualified families. In establishing the Education Opportunity Account Program, families will then be able to seek out their school of choice and use funds for this.

South Carolina’s Plan To Give Parents Options

SB 0935 is an amendment and will create Education Scholarship Accounts. These can be used for eligible students to be used for school choice.

Virginia Making Moves

HB 982 looks to establish both an Education Savings Account Program as well as Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits. Both are aimed at allowing for more school choice and total control by parents to make such decisions.

Washington State Republicans Make An Empty Gesture

The state HB 1215 is an Education Scholarship Program. As with all prior states, this bill will allow parents and students to enjoy more school choices. However, Washington is a uni-party state run solely by the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is adamantly against school choice and has openly opposed the rights of parents to determine how their children will be educated. Meanwhile this bill was proposed by the small handful of Republicans who have elected offices in the state. If you do that math, that means it will not pass.