This Week's School Choice News Roundup
To round out the week, here's a look back on this week's school choice news from around the country:
• In South Carolina, state senators are poised to vote on a proposal that would provide tax-credit scholarships and tax deductions intended to offset private school tuition costs, says an article in The State. Under the bill, families could receive up to $4,000 in tax deductions for private school tuition. Families that homeschool could up to a $2,000 tax deduction under the proposal, and those families sending their children to a public school outside of their home district could receive a $1,000 tax deduction. The bill would also create a tax-credit scholarship program to raise money for private school tuition. Some believe the vote on the legislation could be close, although in the past, similar efforts has been killed by moderate Republicans who joined with Democrats to oppose such legislation.
• The Utah State Charter School Board has come out with evaluations of the state's 81 charter schools for the first time. In an effort to increase oversight of charter school performance, the state charter school board has graded each of the schools on their academics, finances, and governance, according to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune. This is the first year the board has undergone the evaluations, and they are intended to provide a baseline for future years charter performance, the board has said. For that reason, the board cautioned against making comparisons between schools.
• Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley introduced an executive amendment to a controversial bill that would allow tax-credit scholarships for students assigned to "failing" school districts to attend "non-failing" public or private schools in the state, called the Alabama Accountability Act. Bentley, a Republican, has proposed delaying the tax-credits for two years in order to allow the schools classified as "failing" to implement new flexibility plans allowed under the bill and improve their status.
• A proposal in North Carolina to provide vouchers for students with disabilities to attend private schools has passed the House of Representatives. The bill provides $3,000 per semester for students with disabilities to apply toward private school tuition. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Democrats in the House argued that $6,000 was not enough for low-income families because private school tuition is often much higher and therefore the proposal will only impact middle-income families. The bill now heads to the Senate.
• And finally, in Texas, a bill to expand the number of charter schools has passed the House of Representatives. The bill would allow 10 additional charters to open within the next two years, and then 10 more each year after that, with a maximum of 275. The Senate version of the bill would allow greater expansion—up to 305 charter schools to open by the fall of 2019. Among other differences between the House and Senate bills are that the House provision would include charter schools that target dropouts in the total charter school count, reports the Dallas Morning News. (Those schools are excluded from the count in the Senate bill.) Also, the House bill keeps the state board of education as the authorizing agency for new charter schools while the Senate bill would shift that responsibility to the commissioner of education.
In anticipation of the House's vote, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers released a statement on Thursday urging lawmakers to "do charters big in Texas, but do them right." The national organization also advised legislators to set high standards for charter schools, make performance a central focus, and to implement policies that would replicate high-performing charters—while closing failing charter schools.