House Committee hears tax credit billAustin Harris
The House Education Committee on Thursday held a hearing on HB 2374, which expands the existing tax credit for low income students scholarship program. Committee chair Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, announced he does not plan to advance the bill for House consideration. Tax credits or vouchers for private schools are, however, expected to be discussed as the Legislature develops a new school finance formula.
HB 2374 would make all students on free or reduced lunch status in public schools eligible for the scholarship program. Currently, corporations are allowed to contribute money (and receive a 70 percent tax credit) to a “scholarship granting organization” (SGOs) such as a private school, which may award scholarships to low-income students in a Title I focus or priority school. HB 2374 would also allow individuals to make contributions to SGOs in exchange for a 90 percent tax credit, and would allow SGOs to also award scholarships to any student on free or reduced lunch who attended public school in the preceding school year.
KASB’s Associate Executive Director for Advocacy Mark Tallman testified against the bill, stating the organization and its members believe public funding of private education can negatively affect public education unless both systems follow the same rules and serve all students. “When public funding is provided to allow some children to attend private schools, the likelihood is the students who would then move from public schools to private schools will inevitably tend to be more affluent and have fewer special needs, which means public schools not only lose funding for these students, they tend to lose students who are likely to be higher achievers and continue to serve students with more special needs and higher educational costs,” Tallman testified.
Tallman also noted the bill only provides options for low-income students who have access to a private school that can also meet any and all needs they may have; that in order for those students to benefit from the program, private schools will have to agree to enroll and retain those students; and those students can afford to pay additional fees and have transportation to the private school. Further, Tallman said, the bill does not focus on students who are unsuccessful in public schools and the Legislature will have no idea whether the program is improving academic outcomes or student success because most nonpublic schools are not required to report any data on student performance.