Alabama lawmakers have advanced a school voucher-like program that could provide eligible families with state dollars to help pay for private school or home school expenses.

The Alabama House of Representatives voted 69-34 Tuesday for the proposal that now moves to the Alabama Senate. Six Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill. The bill comes as Republicans in a number of states have debated voucher proposals under the banner of expanding school choice.

The proposal, championed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and dubbed the CHOOSE Act, would allow eligible families to access up to $7,000 in state dollars for private school tuition, tutoring or transfer fees to move to another public school. Parents could get also get up to $2,000 for home school expenses.


“The CHOOSE Act will provide provide an opportunity for students to learn and thrive in an environment that best meets their needs, which could be another public school,” Republican Rep. Danny Garrett, the bill’s sponsor, told lawmakers.

The first 500 slots would be reserved for families of students with disabilities. Eligibility would initially be limited to families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level — which would be about $77,460 for a family of three. The income cap would go away in 2027, but lower-income families and families with students with disabilities would have priority for receiving funds.

Democrats expressed concern about using public dollars for private schools.

“If we keep pulling away from public education, how are ever going to make it better?” asked Democratic Rep. Barbara Drummond of Mobile.

Some Democrats also questioned the financial sustainability of the program and if it is intended to be a mechanism for white families to leave public schools.

“If we’re passing legislation to benefit only a few, that is not fiscal responsibility,” Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said.