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A Round-Up of School Choice Legislation Across the U.S.

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Just in time for the three-day weekend, Charters & Choice is offering a round-up of school-choice legislation in play in statehouses, and in one case, at the federal level. Lawmakers are considering measures on tax credits, other types of vouchers, charter school expansion, and parent trigger policy.

• A parent-trigger law passed the Georgia House Education Committee this week that would allow parents there who are unhappy with their children's schools to petition to change the school to a charter. Under the proposed law, if 60 percent of parents or 60 percent of teachers and instructional staff at a public school petition the school board to turn the school into a charter, then the board will have to agree unless two-thirds of the board votes to oppose the petition. Teachers and parents at low-performing schools have even more options, under the proposed bill, to turn around the school, including replacing top administrators.

• The Montana state senate endorsed a bill that would create a tax-credit voucher system to allow families to use public funds for private school costs. The vote broke down largely down party lines, with Republicans in favor of the bill. No Democrats voted to endorse the bill and one Republican also voted against it. Individuals would receive a tax credit on their state income taxes for up to 40 percent of their donation to an organization that would then distribute the money to needy students. Corporations would receive a 20 percent tax credit on donations. The program is capped at $2.5 million per year. Under the bill, parents would choose the private school their child wishes to attend and apply to the scholarship organization for a voucher.

• And on Monday, legislators in the Montana House endorsed three separate school choice bills that would allow charter schools to operate in the state, create tax credits for private school vouchers, and set aside public school funds for students with special needs to attend alternative, private education programs. The bills were supported by Republicans. No Democrats voted for any of the three proposed bills. By Tuesday, the House had struck down the bill that would allow charter schools in the state, a move that was commended by Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, a Democrat, who opposed the bill.

• Two legislators in New Mexico—both Democrats— have joined an effort there to prevent private organizations and businesses from operating virtual charter schools in the state, introducing a bill to the House to bar such entities from partnering with schools in the state. Although the law currently states that a charter school can't contract with a for-profit business to manage the school, for-profit online learning giants K12 Inc and Connections Academy both operate virtual school programs in the state through what backers of the new bill call "loopholes in the law."

• And at the federal level, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, introduced a bill this week that would establish tax-credit vouchers for low-income families. The bill would allow individuals to donate up to $4,500 and corporations to donate up to $100,000 to a scholarship granting organization that would distribute the money to private schools on behalf of the participating students. Students would qualify if they come from families who earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (which is equivalent to $58,875 for a four-person household). Getting such a bill through the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate could prove challenging, as many Democrats, and teachers unions and other education organizations, have historically opposed private school vouchers.

Update: An earlier version of this post said it was the Wyoming state senate that would create a tax-credit voucher system. It should have said the Montana state senate.

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