Andre Jenny Stock Connection Worldwide/Newscom

In a surprising and historic move, the Alabama state legislature passed the state’s first private-school choice plan Thursday evening.

Governor Robert Bentley (R), who is expected to sign the bill next week, called it “the most significant piece of legislation that’s been passed in this Legislature in years,” and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, (R) said, “What we’ve done here today unlocks the doors of choice for parents in failing schools.”

Alabama’s school choice plan provides “income tax credits for families with students in a failing school to attend a non-failing school,” reports “Individuals or businesses who donate to a nonprofit that provides scholarships for students to attend a non-failing school will also be able to receive tax credits.”

This means that children attending schools graded “with three consecutive D’s or one F on the school grading card, or labeled ‘persistently low-performing’ on the state’s School Improvement Grant application” will be able to leave their school for a private or public school of their choice.

Alabama joins 11 other states that provide tax credit scholarships—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island—and joins 21 states plus Washington, D.C., in offering some form of private-school choice, whether through vouchers, tax credit scholarships, or an education savings account.

Representative Chad Fincher (R) said after Thursday’s vote:

Schoolchildren who woke up this morning with little opportunity and few hopes for success now have a clearly lit path to a quality education and a brighter future. Parents in low performing systems have a helping hand pushing their children toward the American dream.