2015 was the “Year of Educational Choice.” And last week the Cato Institute—a public policy research organization dedicated to individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace—published a final count of the year’s new and expanded educational choice programs.
Educational choice is more than simply allowing parents to choose the best school for their child. Through educational choice programs, like Education Savings Accounts, families are able to draw from multiple sources to create the best educational experience for their child. From selecting tutors to private school and educational therapy, true educational choice enables families to select exactly what their child needs to succeed.
Read this excerpt from the Cato Institute’s piece for their final tally of educational choice programs advanced in 2015:
The Year of Educational Choice: The Final 2015 Tally
Here is the (likely) final tally for new and expanded choice programs in 2015, as well as the private educational choice lawsuits decided this year or still pending:
New Educational Choice Programs (8 in 7 states)
- Arkansas: Vouchers for students with special needs.
- Mississippi: ESAs for students with special needs.
- Montana: Universal tax-credit scholarship law.
- Nevada: Tax-credit scholarships for low- and middle-income students.
- Nevada: Nearly universal ESA for students who previously attended a public school.
- South Carolina: Voucher-like “refundable” direct tuition tax credit for students with special needs.
- Tennessee: ESAs for students with special needs.
- Wisconsin: Vouchers for students with special needs.
Expanded Educational Choice Programs (13 in 9 states)
- Alabama: Raised the annual scholarship tax credit cap from $25 million to $30 million and raised the contribution cap from $7,500 to $50,000. However, the expansion came at a price: the legislation lowered income eligibility threshold from 275 percent of the federal poverty level to 185 percent (from about $67,000 to about $45,000 for a family of four). Current scholarship recipients are grandfathered in.
- Arizona: Expanded ESA eligibility to include students living in Native American tribal lands.
- Arizona: Expanded the types of businesses that can receive tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations.
- Florida: Expanded ESA eligibility to include more categories of students with special needs and increased the budget from $18.4 million to nearly $55 million.
- Indiana: Increased amount of tax credits available for donations to scholarship organizations ($2 million over two years).
- Indiana: Eliminated cap on the value of each voucher. Vouchers are worth 90 percent of the state’s per-pupil funding.
- Louisiana: Expanded school voucher program (funding roughly 600 additional vouchers).
- North Carolina: Expanded school voucher program for low-income students ($17.6 million in 2015-16, $24.8 million in 2016-17).
- North Carolina: Expanded school voucher program for students with special needs (vouchers increased from $6,000 to $8,000, total funding increased by $250,000 to $3.25 million annually).
- Ohio: Increased the value of several categories of vouchers.
- Ohio: Raised the funding caps for special-needs vouchers.
- Oklahoma: Expanded eligibility for its special-needs tax-credit scholarships and raised the tax credit value from 50 percent–tied with Indiana for the lowest in the nation–to 75 percent.
- Wisconsin: The state budget raises and eventually eliminates the statewide voucher cap.
Read the complete piece at the Cato Institute for more info on 2015 anti-school-choice lawsuits and to learn which states are already considering educational choice proposals for the 2016 legislative session.