Alabama Governor Endorses Universal School Choice Bill

Jillian Schneider | February 9, 2024

(The Lion) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey advocated for a universal school choice bill during her State of the State address on Tuesday.

Since last summer, Ivey has expressed her desire to sign universal school choice legislation, saying it’s her goal for “Alabama to be the most school-choice friendly state in the nation.”

Currently, the state has just two small choice programs.

“Passing an education savings account bill that works for families and for Alabama is my number one legislative priority,” Ivey declared, introducing the Creating Hope & Opportunity for Our Students’ Education (CHOOSE) Act. “My goal is to put us on a trajectory to make our [ESA] program fully universal, while also maintaining our full and total support for public education.” 

The CHOOSE Act is a blended tax credit-education savings account (ESA) program. 

The measure would provide $100 million in funding for ESAs, starting in the 2025-26 school year.  

Initially, the program would only be open to families living at 300% or less of the federal poverty level. But in 2027, it would become universal. 

The ESAs would be worth up to $7,000 for students in an accredited K-12 school.  

The average tuition for private schools in Alabama is just over $8,000. Public school per-pupil funding is over $11,000

The bill also provides for students not attending accredited schools to receive up to $2,000, meaning homeschooling students could participate.  

In addition to being endorsed by Ivey, the CHOOSE Act is being sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville. Orr and Garrett are also chairmen of their respective chambers’ education committees. 

“Governor Ivey and her team were very receptive and collaborative to feedback from Representative Garrett and me in drafting the CHOOSE Act,” Orr said in a press release.  

“We must leave no stone unturned when it comes to providing the next generation of Alabamians with the opportunity to pursue an educational path that best sets them up for success,” added Garrett. “The CHOOSE Act will give hardworking parents a tool that has the potential to change the trajectory of their child’s educational future.” 

If the measure is passed, the Department of Revenue would manage the tax credit ESA. 

A similar tax credit program in Missouri works similarly, as does Oklahoma’s