Alabama House approves significant expansion of school choice program, providing $7,000 per student for educational expenses

The CHOOSE Act was successfully passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, bringing education savings accounts, also known as ESAs, one step closer to becoming a reality.

The initiative, which holds great importance for the state Republicans, aims to significantly broaden the range of school choice alternatives and allocate public funds towards private schools, homeschooling, and other educational expenses. After a four-hour discussion, lawmakers voted 69-34 in favor of the bill, with six Republicans joining the chamber’s 28 Democrats in opposition.

Under HB129, families who meet the eligibility criteria would receive $7,000 in state tax dollars per student. This funding can be used to cover the educational expenses of their child in a participating school or for other eligible expenses. The implementation of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) is scheduled to begin in the 2025-26 school year.

Support for low-income families and students with disabilities would be the state’s top priority, followed by a gradual introduction of options for eligible families at the beginning of the 2027-28 school year.

Homeschooling families have the opportunity to receive $2,000 per child, with a maximum of $4,000 annually, to cover eligible expenses.

The bill proposes a budget of $100 million for the first year, with an equal allocation between the Education Trust Fund and the supplemental allocation. The total cost of the program after full implementation remains uncertain.

After the bill was passed by the chamber, numerous lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey expressed their support.

Rep. Danny Garrett expressed his pride in the progress being made in Alabama to offer every child the chance to choose the educational path that suits their growth and learning. He commended his colleagues in the House for their support of the CHOOSE Act, which will provide families in Alabama with an additional option for their children’s education.

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In a surprising turn of events, Governor Ivey has expressed her strong commitment to passing an ESA bill this session, despite her previous opposition to such a measure. This marks a significant shift in her priorities and highlights the importance she now places on the implementation of an Education Savings Account program.

During her state of the state address, she expressed her aim to make the ESA program universally accessible while ensuring continued support for public education.

Ivey has shown support for charter schools and has advocated for expanding the eligibility of students for the Alabama Accountability Act tax credit scholarship program.

Currently, thirteen states have implemented various forms of education savings accounts, also known as ESAs.

The Senate committee will now review the bill.

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