Legislative Watch: Pennsylvania, Indiana bills get marathon hearings; Virginia measure dies

While a Senate committee in Virginia killed a proposed tax-credit scholarship program for low-income students, legislatures in Pennsylvania and Indiana engaged in day-long hearings this week on their respective voucher plans.

Indiana’s HB 1003 cleared its first committee on Wednesday, but not before lowering the income eligibility requirements of prospective scholarship recipients. The Indianapolis Star reports that families with incomes that qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches could get 90 percent of each child’s public school funding to use for private tuition assistance. Families with 200 percent of that income level could get half of their child’s public school funding.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s SB 1 was the subject of a nine-hour hearing Wednesday. The measure would provide tuition assistance to low-income students who, in the first year of the program, attend the “persistently lowest-achieving schools.” But by the third year, low-income children anywhere in Pennsylvania would be eligible.

Tax credit and voucher plans in other states also saw some action this week. They include:

Arizona: SB 1312, SB 1553, HB 2581 and HB 2706 all passed their respective committees Monday;  SB 1553 and HB 2706 are the state’s proposed education empowerment accounts, which according to a senate fact sheet, “requires the State of Arizona to deposit monies to each Empowerment Account equal to ninety per cent of state aid that would otherwise be allocated for a student and computed using all state funding weights.”

Washington, D.C.: S.206, or the Opportunity Scholarship Program, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, was the subject of a hearing Wednesday of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Among the testifiers was D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Kevin Chavous, board chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice.

Other bills we’re watching, and which will be the subject of future updates, include Georgia’s HB 62, HB 1881 and SB 87, and Oklahoma’s HB 1029.

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BY Amy Graham

Amy Graham is a policy analyst who recently joined Step Up For Students, a nonprofit organization that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income children. A graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, Amy previously worked as a legislative analyst for the Florida Senate and as an education policy analyst focused on school choice programs for the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice at the Florida Department of Education. She also is an alumnus of Illinois Wesleyan University.

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