Republicans Reveal Plan for Tax Credits for Private Schools

Republicans in Idaho have proposed a new plan to assist Idahoans in funding private education by introducing a $5,000 tax credit. The proposed $50 million “parental choice tax credit” program was announced by Sen. Lori Den Hartog and Rep. Wendy Horman, who are supporters of the “school choice” movement. The bill is expected to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.

The proposal consists of two parts. Under the first part, families of any income attending private schools could claim $5,000 in tax credits for various nonpublic academic expenses such as tuition, fees, transportation, tutoring, and exam preparation. The tax credits would be limited to $40 million and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The second part includes a $10 million “kickstart” program for low-income students who qualify for the federal earned income tax credit. These families could receive up to $5,000 in grants for one year before transitioning into the tax credit program.

In the past, similar proposals to allocate public funds for private education have faced opposition due to concerns about accountability and budget implications. However, Den Hartog and Horman assured critics that the proposed spending caps and oversight by the State Tax Commission would address these concerns. They emphasized that the program aims to complement Idaho’s public school system and would not harm public education.

House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea expressed skepticism about the proposal, suggesting that routing the funding through the Tax Commission might be a way to bypass the House Education Committee, which rejected similar legislation in the previous year. Necochea voiced concerns about diverting funds from public schools to private, religious, and potentially for-profit institutions.

The proposal has garnered support from various “school choice” advocates, including national groups and local families. Proponents of the bill emphasize the positive impact it would have on families like Robbe Hart, a single father who commutes long distances for his sons to attend a Christian school. Hart believes that the bill would financially assist many families facing similar challenges.

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