‘School choice’ legislation is sweeping the nation. Here are the states where it’s been introduced

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This year, there has been a spate of bills introduced around the country that would expand school choice programs following Arizona’s passage of universal school choice last year.

In January, legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued in The Hill that the push for school choice was precipitated by the increasing marginalization of parents.

“Faced with school boards and teacher unions resisting parental objections to school policies over curriculum and social issues, states are on the brink of a transformative change,” Turley wrote. “For years, boards and teacher unions have treated parents as unwelcome interlopers in their children’s education.”

Critics of school choice legislation contend that giving money to students directly diverts money away from public schools that are already strapped. School choice advocates say taxpayer money should follow students, not bureaucracies.

Here are the states that have legislation that would affect students and their families by changing the state’s education funding.


Arizona was the first state to adopt universal school choice last year, allowing any student in the state to take advantage of taxpayer dollars to use for education. The program has recently came under fire by Gov. Katie Hobbs, but students and their families are applying to the program in droves.

Last month, the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program had attracted 47,200 students, almost half of whom came from public schools. The number of participants increased from the 30,000 participants enrolled in January, according to reporting from The Center Square

The Center Square reported earlier this year that Hobbs was targeting the program that allows students to use $7,000 for private school tuition or educational materials with a budget proposal that would undercut it . Hobbs said it would cost $1.5 billion over the next 10 years if left unaddressed. 

Advocates of the program, however, said that her hands were tied and that she would face lawsuits if she tried to use executive orders to abolish the program. 


Iowa enacted the Students First Act on Jan. 24, and the state is now implementing the legislation’s creation of education savings accounts ahead of the launch in the 2023-2024 school year. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office named Odyssey as the company responsible for overseeing the education savings account, after issuing a request for proposal two days after the legislation was enacted, according to The Center Square

“With this bill, every child in Iowa, regardless of ZIP code or income, will have access to the school best suited to their individual needs,” Reynolds said in January when she signed the bill.

Details about how and when parents will be able to apply for the education savings accounts are forthcoming.


Utah became the third state to pass universal school choice earlier this year, when Gov. Spencer Cox signed HB 215 in January. 

The Funding for Teacher Salaries and Optional Education Act provides up to $8,000 for any student for tuition or other approved educational expenses. The program is limited to 5,000 participants for its first year, according to the Washington Examiner

Utah was the second state to enact a universal school choice program this year, after Iowa. Arizona passed its law last year. 

“More than 90% of parents support Utah schools and so do we,” Cox said in a statement at the time of signing. “Our top priority this session has been a significant increase in teacher compensation and education funding.” 

“School choice works best when we adequately fund public education and we remove unnecessary regulations that burden our public schools and make it difficult for them to succeed,” Cox said. 


The Arkansas’ House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would create educational freedom accounts for all students by 2025 and raise teacher salaries to $50,000 a year, according to reporting from The Center Square. 

Only three House Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill. One of those who voted against the bill, state Rep. Hope Duke, R-Gravette, told The Center Square that she had concerns with the bill’s potential impact on school districts.

“But the third one, this has been one of the hardest ones for me to get past, was the financial piece,” Duke told The Center Square. “The financial piece on what it’s going to do to local school districts and what it could do to the state in years to come.”

The bill now goes back to the state Senate because of an amendment added by the House, and if approved, the legislation would head to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ desk. 


Last week, Tennessee’s Senate passed a bill to expand the state’s educational savings account program to students who attended a public school in the last three years.

The recent legislation would not change how many students could join the state’s program, according to The Center Square. The bill would instead allow students who would otherwise be ineligible for the ESA program to be admitted. 

There are income and school restrictions for the education savings program in the state.


Idaho saw education savings account legislation introduced in the state Legislature last month, but the efforts to expand school choice options ultimately fizzled out last week with the defeat of a bill in the Senate and other defeats in the House. 

Other legislation that would have created an education savings program and expanded existing 529 ESA and Empowering Parents programs in the state House also failed to make it onto the House Education Committee agenda, according to a release from the Mountain States Policy Center, which supported the passage of the bills. 

Some representatives reportedly took issue with the cost of the program and accountability of how the money would be spent. 


School choice will be a priority for the Florida Legislature as the legislative session starts up next week. HB 1 would make all students in the state eligible for education saving accounts for homeschooling or private tuition, according to The Center Square.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told The Center Square that Florida is on the edge of returning to the fundamental principles of publicly funded education.

“Florida stands on the monumental verge of restoring the original intent of publicly funding education – by funding individual students – so each child can reach their God-given potential,” Bush told The Center Square. “HB 1 is a forward-thinking and important move toward ensuring Florida remains the nation’s leader in student-centered solutions.”

Opponents voiced concerns that the measure would take money away from the public school system. 


Last week, Georgia’s Senate Education Committee voted to pass education savings account legislation that would provide $6,000 for students to use every school year for tuition or other education-related costs, according to The Center Square.

Senate Bill 233 passed by a 6-5 vote last week. School choice advocates and critics were vocal about the effects that the bill could have on the state’s education system.

“Public education is the right choice for most families, but for a growing minority of students, an alternative is what’s best,” Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, said in a statement according to The Center Square. “We can, and should, support all options.”

“We must fund our public schools first and not continue to take resources away from our children whose only chance at a public education is in our public schools,” Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher and Georgia Association of Educators president, told the committee. “Their only chance for an education is in our public schools.”

Last year, the Georgia Educational Freedom Act, which would have created state-funded $6,000 scholarships, failed to pass the Senate.


The Parent Education Freedom Act was introduced earlier this year in the Ohio General Assembly, which would expand the state’s EdChoice program and allocate $7,500 for high school students and $5,500 for younger students.

“Every parent has the right to choose a school that best meets their student’s needs, and I look forward to this bill allowing Ohio’s parents to make those choices,” Sen. Sandra O’Brien said about the legislation she introduced, according to The Center Square

Critics of the legislation said the measure targets public schools and would create “two distinct systems of education in Ohio.” 

The state’s EdChoice program already faces legal challenges, and a previous school choice measure in the state House failed to pass.

Other states

Legislation in Washington and Wyoming has been introduced this year that would create education savings accounts for students. Wyoming would provide $6,000 for students to use on education expenses. Washington would allow approximately $10,000 for such expenses, with an additional $10,000 for students with disabilities, according to the Mountain States Policy Center

A school choice bill in Louisiana has been prefiled before the legislative session begins on April 10. House Bill 9 would create education scholarship accounts for students with disabilities. 

Previous legislation to create education savings accounts were vetoed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to reporting from The Center Square. Another bill, HB 32, would raise income tax deductions for education expenses to $6,000, up from $5,000.

The Mississippi State House passed legislation in February that would allow charter schools to form in any district, not just those districts receiving a failing grade. Another bill was changed from expanding education savings accounts to include foster children to instead allow foster and adoptive parents to enroll students at any public school district, according to The Center Square

Virginia’s Senate Committee on Education and Health rejected school choice bills earlier this year after they were introduced by Republican lawmakers. The bills would have created an education savings account program for students in the state.

Nebraska’s Legislature saw a bill introduced that would create a tax credit system to grant scholarships and then award those to students based on income tiers, with lower-income students put first.

In Texas, a lawmaker has introduced the “Texas Parental Empowerment Act of 2023,” which would allocate $10,000 per student, according to local news reporting.

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at bclarey@franklinnews.org.

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