HB 1969, to create and fund a school choice scholarship program for foster children

Mar 12, 2019

Download the full Legislative Memo

Choice scholarships would serve the public interest by removing barriers and providing access to quality learning services for foster children

Key Facts

  1. HB 1969 reflects a Washington Policy Center recommendation and would create a school choice scholarship program for foster students.
  2. Currently, state lawmakers generally bar foster children from accessing services provided by private schools, even when that would be in the best interest of the child.
  3. Washington has about 10,000 children in foster care.  About 2,167 of these children have no home to return to and are awaiting adoption.   
  4. The education of foster children is often disrupted by changing residences, changing schools, lack of stable adult relationships, and being assigned to a low-performing school.
  5. Spending public money in private schools is routine and common.  A number of state programs already provide public funds to private schools for special needs children.
  6. HB 1969 would allow foster children to access up to $10,000 to use for education at a private school chosen by their caregivers.
  7. HB 1969 would serve the public interest by ensuring that all children have access to a supportive learning environment and to personalized care that meets their educational needs.


HB 1969, a bill introduced by Representative Chris Corry (R-Yakima), would improve access to quality educational services for foster children by creating a school choice scholarship program.  The bill would help the state fulfill the constitutional requirement that the state provide for the education of all children residing within its borders.

This Legislative Memo provides a description of the main provisions of the bill, briefly reviews the state foster care system and why children are placed in care, and analyzes how the bill would serve the public interest by removing bias and artificial barriers to learning opportunities.

The text of HB 1969

HB 1969 would generate private funds through a tax credit to provide children and youth in foster care the option of attending a public or private school that is in the best interest of the child. Consistent with state and federal law, the decision to enroll a foster child in a participating school would be made by the child’s primary caregiver. 

The Department of Children, Youth and Families would administer this scholarship program. The department would create a list of participating certified public and private schools, and work with the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish administrative, financial and academic accountability standards for participating schools.

The foster child scholarship account created by HB 1969 would be under the management of the state treasurer.

Foster child scholarships would be funded by providing a Business and Occupation tax credit of equal value to those who make a voluntary contribution to the program. Scholarships would provide the lesser of $10,000 or the annual cost per student of attending an approved, participating school.  

The value of a tax credit provided to a business in any given year could not exceed $200,000, and the value of total tax credits for the program could not exceed $20 million a year. 

Eighteen states now offer 22 different tax credit scholarship programs. These programs allow children who are low-income, special needs, and assigned to low-performing schools the opportunity to attend a private school.  One of Arizona’s three tax credit scholarship programs, Lexi’s Law, is limited to students identified as having a disability and to students placed in foster care.

Download the full Legislative Memo

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