Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education Act, or CHOOSE Act, creating much-needed access to education savings accounts (ESAs) for Alabama students. Governor Ivey made expanding the education freedom program her top legislative priority this year. After the CHOOSE Act passed both the Alabama House and Senate by wide margins, she declared, “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.”

Governor Ivey ensured that the CHOOSE Act included support for educators and the public education system, as well. When the bill was introduced last month, she said, “My goal is to put us on a trajectory to make our program fully universal while also maintaining our full and total support of public education. At the end of the day, I believe the CHOOSE Act — packaged with providing our K-12 teachers the highest starting salaries among our neighboring states — will help our public schools become even stronger.”

The CHOOSE Act creates education savings accounts of up to $7,000 per student to attend an accredited private school or up to $2,000 per student toward eligible homeschooling expenses ($4,000 max per family). The funding is provided through a refundable state income tax credit. Scholarship funds may be used for qualifying educational expenses, including tuition, textbooks, instructional materials, after-school programs, and summer education.

Participating private schools will maintain the autonomy to set requirements for accepting students and adopting curriculum. Participating students will take an academic assessment, either a norm-referenced test, a curriculum-aligned standardized test, or a nationally recognized aptitude assessment of the school’s choice. 

The CHOOSE Act instructs the legislature to provide funding of at least $100 million beginning in fiscal year 2025. With that funding, the ESA program could serve more than 14,000 students. Program participation is initially limited to families with household incomes of 300% of the federal poverty level or below but will expand to universal eligibility by the third year of the program.

When the program begins in the 2025-26 school year, Alabama parents will be able to send their children to education options that align with their values and best meet their children’s needs. By passing the CHOOSE Act, Alabama joins 10 other states that have enacted universal or near-universal education freedom programs.

Thanks to Governor Ivey’s leadership and the commitment of legislative leaders, Alabama families will have more leverage and control over their children’s education. Providing education savings accounts to all families empowers parents to direct what, how and where their children will learn. Parents and students who have been poorly served by the assigned government schools now have the freedom and control to find innovative and responsive education options for their children.

We applaud Governor Ivey’s and Alabama state legislators’ commitment to education freedom and look forward to seeing additional states follow their example.