Vouchers and Tax Credits around the Region
Legislation providing student vouchers equal to state per pupil expenditures (H.B. 2275) was introduced in 1999, but did not get out of committee.
H.B. 2159 offers tuition tax credits of up to $500; introduced in 1999. H.B. 2172 offers tax credit for educational expenses. Neither bill passed.
The Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) backs a statewide private voucher program in Arkansas and a local program in Memphis.
A number of school voucher bills were proposed in 1999, none of which passed. A bill offering a $3,000-per-pupil plan for students in failing schools passed the Senate Education Committee but died in the full Senate.
Proposed tax credit legislation in 2000 included:
- H.B. 18–increases the individual income tax credit for educational expenses allowable for each child attending K—12 if such child qualifies as a dependent on the taxpayer’s tax return. It was referred to, but not passed out of, Ways and Means Committee;
- H.B. 105–provides an individual income tax credit for contributions to a school tuition organization. Bill was referred to, but not passed out of, Ways and Means Committee;
- H.B. 121–provides tax credit against the individual income tax for nonuse of public schools. It was referred to, but not passed out of, Ways and Means Committee.
CSF sponsors scholarship programs in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
The Elementary and Secondary School Voucher Act (H.B. 138), which would have established a statewide voucher program, was defeated in committee at the end of the 2000 regular session.
Educate New Mexico, a new nonprofit group, plans to award between 400 and 1,000 four-year scholarships to help students from poor families attend private or religious schools. There are no academic requirements. Students who win awards must gain admission into a private or religious school and be able to pay the balance of any tuition and fees not covered by the grants. See http://educatenm.org/ for more information.
Governor Gary Johnson has been championing a plan that would allow over 100,000 poor children to be eligible for state vouchers worth roughly between $3,600—4,100 to attend private or religious schools in the first year of a four-year phase-in plan; gradually all New Mexico students would be eligible.
H.B. 1100 (2000), which creates income tax credit for certain tuition and fee payments, was referred to, but not passed out of, Rules Committee.
H.B. 2671 creates an income tax credit for certain tuition and fee payments for private elementary or secondary schools located in the state of Oklahoma. It was referred to, but not passed out of, Tax/Revenue Committee.
S.B. 620 (2000) allows credit against income taxes to certain persons for unreimbursed expenditures related to education. The bill was referred to, but not passed out of, Finance Committee.
Governor Frank Keating supports vouchers for students with special needs, as well as vouchers equivalent to the state's average, annual per-pupil expenditure for students from Oklahoma’s low-performing schools.
The Committee for Oklahoma Educational Reform (COER) was founded in 1990 to devise a plan to restore accountability to public education using scholarships. COER has two proposed constitutional amendments toward that goal.
A 1999 bill proposing a small-scale voucher program for low-income students in the state’s six most urban counties failed to pass.
Another bill, H.B. 2118, proposes a pilot program that would allow up to 10 percent of children in any low-performing school in one of Texas’s seven largest school districts to attend a school of their choice. They would receive a scholarship from the residence district worth up to 80 percent of per-pupil funding (excluding funds dedicated to school facilities). The district would retain the remaining 20 percent of per-pupil expenditures and 100 percent of the debt service taxes. In this way, the bill provides for an increase in per-pupil funding for children in public schools. No school would be required to participate, but once a school did elect to participate it would have to accept all applicants. Participating private schools would not be bound to public school regulations, but participating students would be required to take the statewide Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) exam. H.B. 2118 also failed.
Tax-credit legislation for contributions to before and after school programs passed in 1999, with a concurrent resolution clarifying that the legislation did not provide any tax assistance for private school tuition.
Tax-credit legislation for donations to schools (H.B. 99, H.B. 3645) and for scholarships for private schools (H.B. 1569) was introduced but did not move further.
Private voucher programs (affiliates of CEO America)2 exist in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Tyler, and Midland. San Antonio’s Edgewood district had the nation’s first districtwide school choice program, the Horizon program. Approximately 96 percent of the children within the Edgewood School District qualify for the Horizon program vouchers, which are worth up to $4,000 per school year.
Governor George W. Bush supports allowing students in low performing schools to transfer to other districts, with state funds shifting to new district.
1Most private vouchers in the Southwestern Region are provided by the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF), created in 1998 by New York City investor Theodore J. Forstmann and Wal-Mart heir John Walton. Over 40,000 four-year partial scholarships ranging from $600 to $1,600 a year have been awarded to low-income students nationally by CSF.
2Children First CEO America, founded in 1992 in Texas, provides information, training, and support for private scholarship programs around the country. They are affiliated with most of the private school choice programs in the Southwestern Region. To qualify as a school choice program under the CEO America definition, the organization must put no stipulation on parents regarding either choice of schools or academic performance of students. These foundations offer unrestricted tuition vouchers based solely on the family’s income and usually tied to the Federal School Lunch Program income requirements. Recipients typically are chosen by lottery although some programs use a first-come, first-serve approach.
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