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Idaho lawmakers propose tax credit for private school expenses

A new bill introduced by two Republican legislators in Idaho would allow parents to claim a $5,000 tax credit for private school tuition and other education-related expenses. The bill, dubbed the Parental Choice Tax Credit Program, aims to expand educational options for families and reduce the burden on public schools.

What is the Parental Choice Tax Credit Program?

The Parental Choice Tax Credit Program is a proposal by Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, and Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, to create a tax credit for parents who choose to send their children to private schools or home-school them. The tax credit would be worth up to $5,000 per child per year, and could be used to cover tuition, fees, books, supplies, uniforms, transportation, tutoring, and other qualifying expenses.

The bill would also create a scholarship fund for low-income families who want to enroll their children in private schools. The fund would be financed by donations from individuals and corporations, who would receive a 100% tax credit for their contributions. The scholarships would be awarded by nonprofit organizations that meet certain criteria, such as academic standards, financial accountability, and nondiscrimination policies.

The bill sponsors say that the program would benefit both parents and public schools, by giving parents more choices and flexibility in their children’s education, and by reducing the enrollment and costs of public schools. They estimate that the program would cost the state about $45 million in the first year, based on the assumption that about 6,600 students would participate.

Idaho lawmakers propose tax credit for private school expenses

How does the bill compare to other school choice programs?

The Parental Choice Tax Credit Program is similar to other school choice programs that have been implemented or proposed in other states, such as education savings accounts, vouchers, and tax credit scholarships. These programs generally allow parents to use public funds or tax incentives to pay for private school or home-school expenses.

However, the bill differs from some of these programs in several ways. For example, unlike education savings accounts, which deposit public funds into a parent-controlled account, the tax credit program would not involve any direct transfer of public funds to parents or private schools. Instead, parents would claim the tax credit when they file their state income tax returns, and the state would reimburse them for their expenses.

Another difference is that the bill does not include any income limits or means-testing for the tax credit, meaning that any parent who pays state income taxes could qualify for the program, regardless of their income level. This contrasts with some voucher and scholarship programs that target low-income or special-needs students.

Additionally, the bill does not impose any academic or accountability requirements on the private schools or home-schools that participate in the program, except for complying with the state’s compulsory attendance law. This means that the private schools or home-schools would not have to administer standardized tests, report student performance, or follow the state’s curriculum standards.

What are the arguments for and against the bill?

The bill has received support from some parents, educators, and advocacy groups who favor school choice and parental rights. They argue that the bill would empower parents to choose the best educational option for their children, and that it would foster competition and innovation among schools. They also claim that the bill would save money for the state and public schools, by reducing the number of students who rely on public education.

However, the bill has also faced opposition from some teachers, administrators, and organizations who represent public education interests. They contend that the bill would divert public funds and resources away from public schools, and that it would create an unfair and unequal system of education. They also question the fiscal and academic impact of the bill, and the lack of accountability and oversight for the private schools or home-schools that receive the tax credit.

The bill is expected to face a tough battle in the legislature, as some Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about the cost, feasibility, and legality of the program. The bill would need to pass both the House and the Senate, and be signed by Gov. Brad Little, who has not taken a position on the bill yet.

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