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Charter Expansions and Voucher Initiatives Face Votes in State Legislatures

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This week, here's a quick overview of some school choice-related legislation moving through state legislatures:

• In Idaho, a bill that would create a tax-credit scholarship program in the state has passed an initial vote in a House committee and will now move to a vote from the full House. The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, would allow up to $10 million each year in tax credits for corporations or individuals who donate to scholarship-granting organizations for private schools. Sen. Nonini predicts that the program will save the state more than $3 million, although the actual savings of tax-credit voucher programs has been up for debate in other states.

• A bill to expand charter schools in Kansas was killed in the House Education Committee on Friday. The bill would have allowed public or private higher education institutions as well as governing boards of city, county, or local school boards to authorize charter schools. The bill failed in a 9-10 vote, with all supporting votes from Republicans. Opposing votes were cast from both Democrats and Republicans.

• A bill that would lift the moratorium on new charter schools in New Hampshire is set to be voted on this week by the House Finance Committee. If passed, the bill will then go to a final vote from the full House before moving on to the Senate for approval. The bill, which passed the House Education Committee in February, would increase charter school funding by about $5.5 million, which would go toward eight new charter schools over the next two years. The chairman of the New Hampshire Board of Education and some Republican lawmakers voiced optimism this fall about lifting the moratorium, although several steps need to be taken before the ban on new charter schools in the state can be lifted.

• The controversial tax-credit legislation that was pushed through the Alabama legislature has officially been signed into law by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, after a temporary restraining order preventing the bill from being signed was overturned. The bill allows parents of students at schools graded D or F by the state to claim a tax credits of up to 80 percent of the state's per-pupil spending (about $3,500) in order to enroll their children in nonfailing public or private schools. The Alabama Education Association, which was behind the temporary restraining order of the bill, plans to file another lawsuit to overturn the law.

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