State legislative sessions are underway across the country, and many lawmakers are hoping to continue the education freedom momentum the country saw in previous years.
In 2023, seven states adopted universal education freedom policies—which means all students in the state are eligible to access the program: Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah. This brings the number of states with universal choice to nine (with Arizona and West Virginia already having these types of programs in place).
During the 2024 legislative sessions, even more states could advance universal school choice legislation—bringing more education options to even more families.
Which states could be next?
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently said passing a school choice bill was her number one priority for Alabama’s legislative session, which starts February 6. There are expected to be several school choice bills introduced by lawmakers, including a universal Education Savings Account (ESA) program.
In early January, the Alabama Policy Institute released an “Education Freedom in Alabama” report that highlights some of the problems with Alabama’s K-12 education system and the benefits of school choice programs. Alabama Policy noted education freedom initiatives that strengthen the role of parents in their responsibility to educate their children are a priority for the organization.
Georgia could pass the “Promise Scholarship Act,” which gives families stipends to pay for educational expenses. As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation explains, the funds could be used to pay for private school expenses, homeschooling expenses, virtual classes, tutoring, certain education-related therapies, and more.
The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), another organization working to advance school choice in the state, is hopeful 2024 will be the year lawmakers expand education options for Georgia’s children.
“During the 2024 session, we hope to see tremendous progress on expanding school choice through passage of Senate Bill 233, the Promise Scholarship bill,” said GCO’s vice president of public policy, Buzz Brockway. “In addition, we hope to see an increase in the cap on Georgia’s Tax Credit Scholarship program, which would also expand private school options parents have.”
Last year, the Promise Scholarship Act passed the Senate but failed in the House. All of Georgia’s neighbor states passed some form of education freedom in 2023—putting pressure on the Peach State to expand education options and opportunities for Georgia families.
Louisiana has almost passed education freedom in previous years, but those proposals were vetoed by former Governor Jon Bel Edwards. However, Louisiana elected a new governor, Jeff Landry, who is a proponent of education freedom. The Pelican Institute has been working to advance school choice in the state and is confident 2024 is the year to finally bring education freedom to Louisiana. Pelican’s Erin Bendily, the Vice President for Policy and Strategy, noted:
“As Louisiana’s state government transitions to new leadership, with a new governor, legislature, and state education board taking office in January 2024, it’s all but a guarantee that the state will follow the example of several others in expanding school choice through education savings accounts (or education scholarship accounts), known as ESAs.”
Mississippi is another southern state that could pass universal school choice in 2024. Empower Mississippi and the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, two think tanks working to improve education options for Mississippi families, have both noted that 2024 could be a big year for education freedom in the Magnolia State.
Douglas Carswell, the CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, added:
“2024 could be the year that we give every family in the state control over their child’s share of education tax dollars, through an Education Freedom Account. Arkansas passed legislation to do precisely that last year. Tennessee and Louisiana are poised to do something similar. Rather than trailing behind, Mississippi lawmakers should take the lead, delivering big, strategic change to improve education in this state, too.”
Ahead of the start of Tennessee’s legislative session, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee presented the Education Freedoms Scholarship Act of 2024—a legislative proposal to establish statewide universal school choice. The law would give parents the resources they need to choose the education setting that best works for their children. After Lee announced this call for statewide school choice, the Beacon Center of Tennessee noted:
“Parents everywhere deserve true educational freedom, and Tennesseans across the political spectrum agree. Our recent poll shows that nearly 70% of Tennessee voters support expanding our ESA program statewide, including a strong majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, while only 17% oppose it. Beacon has long advocated for expanding parental choice, and we are grateful the governor is leading the charge to make it happen in 2024.”
Georgia School Choice Week: Gov. Kemp Encourages Access to Quality Education for Every Kid
Georgia Center for Opportunity
This “Could” be a Big Legislative Session
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
The State of School Choice in Georgia
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
How to Change Mississippi for the Better in 2024
Mississippi Center for Public Policy
Everything You Need to Know About Education Savings Accounts
State Policy Network