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Education scholarship account bill into Alabama law

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(The Center Square) – Education savings accounts worth $7,000 per year to Alabama families has been signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.

Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, sponsored Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education Act. Thirteen other states offer such programs.

The bill would create a $100 million fund for annual scholarships of $7,000 used by parents for tuition to approved private schools and other educational costs, such as tutoring and software. It was Ivey’s biggest legislative priority for the session and the new law went into effect immediately.

“Today is a historic day as we officially sign our education savings account bill, the CHOOSE Act, into law,” Ivey said in a release. “Our plan will not only work for Alabama families – it will work for the state and will be effective and sustainable for generations to come.

“With the CHOOSE Act, Alabama will now be a leader when it comes to school choice. And I am hopeful that this will make a difference for Alabama families.”

Three of Alabama’s neighboring states – Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee – have ESA programs.

Ivey reaffirmed her commitment to public schools.

“Let me also be clear that my commitment to public education remains unrelenting,” Ivey said. “At the end of the day, we all want every Alabama student – no matter the ZIP code, no matter the school, to receive a quality education. Strong students will lead to a strong Alabama, and a strong Alabama is our goal.”

Under the CHOOSE Act, if the $100 million isn’t fully spent on the accounts it is rolled forward for the next year. Once there is $500 million in the program that has been rolled over, any additional funds are sent to the state’s Education Trust Fund.

The new law would also require participating schools to put their tuition payments on a schedule to be determined by the state Department of Revenue. Garrett said this was to ensure that the state wouldn’t spend education savings account funds if a participating student withdraws from that school during the school year.

It would also prevent discrimination by private schools against education savings account students by charging them higher tuition than students not participating in the program.

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