Legislative Tracker: 2024 State Private-School Choice Bills

Updated: 4/4/2024

As it did last year, private-school choice is looming large in 2024 state legislative sessions. Building on a flurry of 2023 choice laws, lawmakers in multiple states are working to create or expand programs directing public funds towards private educational opportunities. But the rapid expansion of school choice has also provoked some backlash in state capitols.

FutureEd has identified 114 private-school choice bills in 34 states introduced or prefiled so far in 2024. While most aim to broaden private-school choice options, a handful seek to scale back such programs. So far, eight have been enacted, including Alabama’s CHOOSE Act (H.B. 129), which establishes an education savings account that will soon be open to all families in the state. More bills supporting school choice are expected in the coming months, particularly in Republican-led states where choice bills failed last year or where lawmakers have yet to extend private-school-choice eligibility to all students.

Last year was a landmark year for private-school choice, with 17 states enacting legislation to either establish or expand programs. Eight of these states—Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah—adopted universal or near-universal eligibility, bringing to ten the number of states with universal programs.

This year, legislators in several states aspire to join their ranks, introducing bills to launch universal private-school choice, whether gradually or all at once. In Tennessee, three amendments have been proposed to S.B. 2787 (companion H.B. 2468) and S.B. 503 (companion H.B. 1183) to establish the Education Freedom Scholarships, a universal ESA program. Governor Bill Lee’s version would provide 20,000 scholarships in its first year for students attending private schools, with half designated for families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $93,600 for family of four in 2024.

Bills in Missouri would also establish universal eligibility, but through different avenues. S.B. 727 would greatly expand eligibility for the state’s existing tax-credit scholarship ESA, while S.B 729 would create a new, universal, refundable tax credit for private educational expenses. Currently, Missouri’s existing ESA is limited to families with incomes below 200 percent of the federally established threshold to receive free and reduced-price school lunch. S.B. 727 would make almost all students in the state eligible by raising the income limit to 400 percent of the federal threshold, or $222,000 for a family of four in 2023-24.

Louisiana legislators have introduced H.B. 745 to create the LA GATOR Scholarship, which would be open to all children within three years. Nebraska’s L.B. 1386 proposes a modest universal ESA, providing $1,500 per student per year.

Other bills target specific student groups. In Pennsylvania, for example, S.B. 1057, introduced by a Democrat and co-sponsored by a Republican, would create the Educational Freedom Act Program to offer scholarships to low-income students zoned to low-performing public schools. The bill is modeled after Governor Josh Shapiro’s school choice plan, offering scholarships up to $10,000 for high school students and $15,000 for students with special needs.

At the same time, lawmakers in other states are pushing back on established programs. In Iowa, S.F. 284 seeks to repeal the state’s universal ESA program that was established last year.

Democrats in Tennessee have introduced bills that would require the department of education to annually collect and report information for each participating private school and education provider, including the cost of tuition, admission policies and decisions, students demographics, and student performance metrics; ensure private schools receiving public funds comply with the same public school testing requirements; and mandate that participating schools comply with the state’s requirement to retain third-graders not meeting reading proficiency.

In Arizona, several bills seek to enact Governor Katie Hobbs’ proposal to increase accountability and transparency for the state’s universal ESA program, including requiring background checks, limiting “luxury” spending, mandating participating schools to report performance data, and requiring the Department of Education to estimate the program’s cost.

We will continue to monitor and update the tracker as new bills are introduced and progress through the legislative process.