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Governor Kay Ivey signs CHOOSE Act to give parents educational choices

On Thursday morning, Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed landmark school choice legislation. Alabama is the eleventh state to pass universal School Choice.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate voted to pass landmark school choice legislation that will greatly expand the options that parents have for the education of their children. Education savings account legislation is a top legislative priority for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R).

"Today, we've finally overcome the last hurdle in enacting Alabama's historic education savings account plan after the Alabama Senate strongly approved the CHOOSE Act," said Governor Kay Ivey. "While our state has a strong public education system, all Alabama families will soon have the right to choose their children's schools. This monumental achievement would not have been possible without the unwavering support of Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed and Senator Arthur Orr. I am grateful for their efforts as well as our partners in the State House for maximizing education freedom in Alabama. We want every Alabama student – whether they are at a public school, private school, magnet, charter or homeschool – the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. I look forward to signing the CHOOSE Act into law."

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper) also released a statement supporting the Choose Act.

"Today Alabama put school children and their families first. Children are our future, and there is no greater responsibility for lawmakers than ensuring our kids have every resource needed for academic success regardless of their zip code," said Pro Tem. Reed. "We want our children to achieve their dreams and reach their full potential, and the CHOOSE Act provides this opportunity in a fiscally responsible way. I am proud of the investment we are making that will have a positive impact on our young students across Alabama."

"Today marks a historic achievement for the State of Alabama in the battle for education freedom and parental rights. The Alabama Republican Party has been working tirelessly towards School Choice for years, and we are thrilled to see the enactment of HB129. There is still much to do in the fight for school freedom, but this bill takes a massive step forward in putting parents back in control of their children's education," said Alabama Republican Party Chairman Wahl. "A child's quality of education should never be based on their background or where they live. We firmly believe that every family should have the opportunity to secure a better education, and School Choice is a pivotal component in accomplishing that goal."

House Bill 129 is sponsored by State Representative Danny Garrett (R-Trussville). It was carried in the Senate by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

"Ultimately we need to be funding the students' education and focus on the students and not so much on institutions," said Orr.

"Last year we had school choice legislation that was filed was quite costly – if my recollection was correct, it was $500 or $600 million," said Orr. "When we met with the Governor's people it had a much higher cost than it does not. We agreed to that $100 million cost."

The Choose Act will allow parents to get a tax credit of up to $7,000 to send their child to an accredited private, religious, or out of district school. Parents who homeschool can receive a tax credit of up to $2,000 per child for educational materials from approved venders. That is capped at $4,000 per homeschool family. This would go into effect on August of 2025.

"The first 500 slots are held for special needs children," Orr explained. There is also priority for the children of an active-duty military family that is zoned for a priority school.

"Priority schools" are what we used to call "failing schools" before the Legislature got politically correct not to hurt people's feelings.

"The first two years it is capped at 300% of the federal poverty line – that is around $90,000," explained Orr. "After two years it is open to everyone."

The lower the income the family the higher the priority they are for getting the credit until the $100 million runs out for that year.

A home school family has to submit their receipts to the Department of Revenue and have those expenses approved for them to be able to get reimbursed. Orr explained that the $2,000 was reached by adding the $1,000 per child that the state spends for curriculum on the average child and then adding that to the $1,000 per classroom that a classroom teacher gets for classroom supplies.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said that the state should spend more money on public schools before diverting any money to private schools.

"At some point in time we have got to get past the politics, past elections and say, I represent these children, and before I do something like this, I got to make sure these children are taken care of," said Smitherman. "At this point we need to have a moratorium on big ticket items until we are sure that we have money to fund items that are already in there." "We need to provide them funds first and foremost to get them up to the baseline."

Following passage, the Governor released a statement.

"It was an honor to work with Governor Ivey and her team to swiftly pass a school choice bill that she declared her number one priority this Session," said Orr. "I believe Governor Ivey desires nothing but the best for all Alabama's school children and their families both today and in the years to come."

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