Friday, September 30, 2011
School Choice Advocate
2011’s New School Choice Programs
As you’ve probably heard, this has been a banner year for school choice. In 2011, more voucher and tax credit bills were introduced than ever before – 19 programs were enacted, with 8 new programs and 11 expanded. But what exactly do those new programs do? Here, we give you the specifics and outline how this has truly been the “year of growth” for school choice.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
Education Savings Account
These accounts allow parents of children with disabilities to withdraw from public district or charter schools and receive a portion of their public funding into an education savings account. Parents can use their account funds to pay for private school tuition, virtual education programs, private tutoring, or future college expenses.
Douglas County Choice Scholarship Pilot Program
Eligible students can receive vouchers worth the lesser of private school tuition or 75 percent of their per-pupil public revenue. Families may supplement the voucher. If more than 500 students apply for vouchers, the Choice Scholarship Office will conduct a lottery. Students must be residents in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) for at least one year, and must currently be attending a DCSD public school. Participating private schools can be located outside Douglas County. This program has been challenged in court by opponents of school choice and is currently enjoined. For current news on this and all 2011 choice programs, visit EdChoice.org.
School Scholarship Program
This program provides vouchers to families with household incomes not exceeding 150 percent of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program guidelines to pay the costs of tuition and fees to attend any accredited private school. Any child who attended a public school for the preceding two semesters (or received a tax credit scholarship in kindergarten) is eligible to receive either a 90 percent or a 50 percent scholarship, depending on household income. Approximately 525,000 students, or about 55 percent of the state’s total public school population in grades 2 through 12, will be eligible to receive a voucher. There are no geographic or jurisdictional restrictions. All students living in the state may be eligible. There is no financial cap on the program.
Tuition Tax Deduction
Individual Tax Deduction
Any taxpayer who has a child already enrolled in a private school or who is homeschooled will be eligible to claim a $1,000 tax deduction per child for approved educational expenses, including private school tuition, textbooks, fees, software, tutoring, and supplies.
Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities
Individual Tax Credit
This program allows parents of children with special needs to claim a tax credit of up to $6,000 for educational expenses that include private school tuition, therapy, and tutoring. Nearly 200,000 K-12 students in public schools are estimated to be receiving special education and other related services this school year. It is estimated that up to five percent of qualified students will take advantage of the tax credit, saving taxpayers up to $10 million and school districts up to $4 million per year within the next five years. Savings will be placed in a fund for special needs programs in public schools.
Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program
Parents of children with special needs, who currently are enrolled in public schools, can use this scholarship for private school tuition and services at private therapists and other service providers. The number of scholarships available is capped at five percent of the students with special needs in the state. Ohio has approximately 260,000 students with Individualized Education Plans, which means around 13,000 scholarships will be available. Each scholarship will be worth 90 percent of students’ special education funding amounts, with a cap of $20,000. The program takes effect in the 2012-13 school year.
Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships
Tax Credit Scholarship
Families with incomes up to 300 percent of the income qualifying for free and reducedprice lunch will be eligible to receive scholarships. Scholarship Granting Organizations must spend a portion of their expenditures for low-income students in an amount equal to or greater than the percentage of low-income students in the state. Students can receive scholarships worth up to the greater of $5,000 or 80 percent of the average perpupil expenditures in the school districts where they reside, not to exceed the costs of attending the private school. Scholarships for children with special needs may not exceed $25,000. The program is capped at $5 million, of which $3.5 million is dedicated to private school scholarships with a separate $1.5 million in tax credits for donations made to nonprofits that distribute educational improvement grants to public schools.
Racine Parental Choice Program
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program’s model will be implemented in the Racine Unified School District, with the exception of a two-year cap on the number of students. The program will be limited in the first year to 250 students and in the second year to 500 students. Thereafter, there will be no cap. An estimated 11,000 families will be eligible. If the program is oversubscribed in the first year, priority will be given to children who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.
For more information on all school choice legislation enacted in 2011, including expanded programs, visit EdChoice.org/2011programs.