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Supporters and opponents of school choice crowded into a fifth floor hearing room at the Legislative Office Building earlier today to hear speakers give brief remarks in support and against House Bill 944, Opportunity Scholarship Act.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg), Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford) Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) and Brian Brown (R-Pitt) awards eligible students up to $4,200 to help defray the costs of attending a nonpublic school.
At today’s meeting, legislators received aHB 944 Bill Summary and new fiscal estimate, designed in large part to make the proposal more palatable to Committee members. As might be expected, the new income threshold revises the fiscal note downward, considerably.
Some of the major changes include requiring eligible students to reside in households whose income does not exceed the amount required for the student to qualify for the federal free or reduced price lunch program (185 percent of federal poverty guidelines). In addition, the new legislation also requires that 50 percent of the available scholarship funds be used for students who qualify for federal free or reduced lunch program.
No Committee vote was taken today. Despite strong support among the majority of house members, many school choice supporters are still wary that Committee leadership don’t support the bill. All indications are that next week’s vote will be close.