Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has declared her intent to get universal school choice legislation passed when the Legislature convenes again next year.
“My goal is for Alabama to be the most school choice-friendly state in the nation. I want us to have lots of school choices for our parents to choose from,” Ivey told Capitol Journal.
“We are working now already on a bill, an ESA bill, an education savings account bill, to present to the Legislature in the next session, and I’m very optimistic that will pass,” she continued.
An education savings account (ESA) bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, died in this year’s session after being shuffled around various Senate committees.
However, Stutts was also optimistic that 2024 would prove more fruitful.
“The overall concept of universal school choice needs to be passed,” he told 1819 News. “I expect to pass a school choice bill next year and am open to tweaks that will make it better, but I’m not open to tweaks that will just water it down.”
Eight states in the past few years have passed universal school choice bills, and – like Alabama – they all had Republican governors and Republican majorities in both legislative chambers.
A survey by the Alabama Republican Party in April found that 57% of voters support school choice, with just 16% opposed.
“It’s important for our parents to have choices [where] to send their children to school, whether it’s public private, homeschooled or whatever,” Ivey also said. “But the goal is to get our children a quality education.”
While the state Legislature didn’t pass an ESA program this year, it did expand the state’s current tax-credit scholarship program.
Gov. Ivey also recently addressed the state’s latest standardized test scores, which revealed nearly a quarter of Alabama’s third-graders aren’t reading at grade level. The governor said she supports legislation that allows students to be held back from 4th grade if they aren’t reading proficiently.
“We do no service to a child to just pass them on without them reading proficiently,” she stated. “We’ve got to have children reading proficiently when they leave the third grade.”
Alabama’s next legislative session will start on Feb. 6, 2024.