Legislation (HB 944) authorizing the Opportunity Scholarship Grant has been revised and is scheduled to be reintroduced in the House.
The legislation, focused on expanding educational opportunity for parents and students was originally introduced in mid-April. The changes tighten the income eligibility guidelines for Opportunity Scholarship vouchers. Under the new bill, in the first year of the program (2013-14) only students from families at 100 percent of eligibility for Federal free or reduced lunch program qualify for the program. In year two, the income eligibility increases to 133 percent of eligibility for student to qualify for Federal free or reduced lunch program. The net result of the changes is to lower the income ceiling to qualify for the program to about $45,000.
Another new provision requires that at least 50 percent of available Opportunity Scholarship funds be awarded to individuals from households whose income is not in excess of the amount required to qualify for federal free and reduced lunch
A new fiscal estimate on the proposed changes has yet to be released. Still, it is anticipated the changes will significantly reduce the expected costs of the program. The original legislation requested $40 million for the program in 2013-14.
After numerous delays, the legislation is scheduled for hearing by the House Education Committee on May 21st.