Coming Together to Defeat Private School Voucher Bills in the States
An onslaught of private school voucher bills has been introduced in state legislatures around the country in just the first months of 2021. But proving there is a groundswell of advocacy to keep public funds in the public schools, over 300 people registered for a webinar entitled “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them” hosted by Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS) and the Network for Public Education (NPE).
The webinar featured representatives from PFPS, NPE, and the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). Discussion focused on the most significant voucher bills introduced this year, additional legislative action to watch for during 2021 sessions, and tools and resources for public school advocates working to defeat attempts to privatize public education.
Recently introduced bills that would undermine public school funding and threaten students’ rights by establishing new voucher programs or expanding existing ones include:
- In Arizona, SB1452 would dramatically expand eligibility for the state’s existing Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher program, and SB1041 would quadruple the existing cap on the state’s tax credit voucher program.
- In Arkansas, HB1371 would create an additional voucher program with broader student eligibility criteria than the existing voucher for students with disabilities, funded via tax credits and structured to pay both tuition and other private education expenses.
- In Florida, SB48 would merge and expand the state’s multiple voucher programs, which already cost upwards of $1 billion per year, and further weaken their dismal accountability requirements.
- In Georgia, HB60 would establish a new ESA voucher program that would significantly threaten funding for under-resourced public school districts, HB142 would expand the cap on the state’s tax credit voucher program, and SB47 would expand eligibility for the state’s voucher for students with disabilities.
- In Indiana, HB1005 would expand the income eligibility limit for the state’s existing voucher program and create a new voucher for additional groups of students, including students with disabilities.
- In Iowa, SB159, which includes several privatization measures, would establish a voucher program to divert already limited public education dollars to private schools.
- In Kansas, HB2068 / SB61 would broaden the state’s tax credit voucher program, and HB2119 would establish an additional ESA voucher program.
- In Kentucky, HB149 / SB25 would create a tax credit voucher program that would expand in size each year.
- In Missouri, omnibus legislation now contained in SB55 would, among other damaging provisions, create a tax credit voucher program budgeted for up to $100 million to fund private education, including homeschooling and for-profit virtual schools.
- In New Hampshire, HB20 would create an ESA voucher program with practically universal eligibility.
- In North Carolina, HB32 would expand eligibility for the state’s existing voucher programs as well as increase voucher amounts.
The PFPS/NPE webinar highlighted several tools that can be used to track and oppose voucher bills:
- The PFPS interactive voucher bill tracker demonstrated on the webinar is available here. Additional PFPS webinars, as well as fact sheets, policy briefs and other tools for advocates, can be found on the Advocacy page of the PFPS website. The Research page on the website catalogues studies showing that private school voucher programs are an ineffective and harmful use of public funds. The website also has information about litigation to scale back and stop voucher programs and other diversions of public funds from public schools.
- The Espinoza Toolkit put together by NCPE covers topics including the U.S. Supreme Court’s Espinoza decision, no-aid clauses in state constitutions, reasons for opposing private school vouchers, and more and is available here. Additional resources for advocates, including fact sheets, letters, and studies, are available on the NCPE website under “Learn More.”
- NPE Action’s page tracking school privatization bills is available here. This tool can be used to learn more about legislation in the states and the ways to take action.
New voucher bills continue
to be introduced each week. Some are moving on fast tracks through state
legislatures, with several of the bills listed above already voted out of
committee. Check the PFPS bill tracker, updated each Friday, to stay abreast of
important developments. If you think a relevant bill in your state is missing
or have questions about PFPS resources or particular voucher legislation,
please contact PFPS at firstname.lastname@example.org.