The statewide tuition tax credit program, which has been operating for the past five years through a budget proviso, will likely seek additional state funding to expand the program in 2018 or to place it in permanent law. The current program awards scholarships that are provided by donors who receive a tax credit equal to the donation amount.
Meanwhile, two bills filed in the House and in the Senate would change the program to the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Account Act, which is similar to a program currently operating in six states. Basically, the program would directly provide taxpayer money in the form of a debit card from the state’s general fund to parents who opt to take their child out of a public school and send them to a private school or other education services. Parents can use the funds to pay for tuition or other education related expenses, including transportation, books, etc.
The House and Senate bills currently limit eligible students who have been identified with special needs, students in foster care, military family children and students eligible for free or reduced lunch. In Arizona, where the program has been operating since 2011, the expansion of eligible children has doubled, costing taxpayers more than $99 million in 2017. Other states with similar programs are Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, and Tennessee.
Legislation already filed
- House bill 4308 and Senate bill 622 would create the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Account Act.
- Senate bill 241 would provide up to a $10,000 tax deduction for tuition or other education-related expenses to parents who opt to take their child out of a public school and send them to a private school or home school.
- House bill 3934 would provide up to a $5,000 tax deduction for tuition or other education-related expenses to parents who opt to take their child out of a public school and send them to a private school or home school.
SCSBA strongly opposes state or federally-mandated efforts to directly or indirectly subsidize elementary or secondary private, religious or home schools with public funds.