Wednesday, March 20, 2013
BOISE, ID—A tax-credit scholarship proposal passed Idaho’s House of Representatives today by a vote of 35 to 33. This is the first time a private school choice measure has cleared a full legislative chamber in Idaho.
Idaho House Bill 286 would allow students whose household income does not exceed 150 percent of the income needed to qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, or $63,964 for a family of four, to be eligible for scholarships. It is estimated that 59 percent of Idahoans are within that income range. The scholarships would be funded by individual and corporate donations, for which those taxpayers would receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit from the state.
“Idaho lawmakers should be commended for working to empower families with this historic vote,” Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said. “If adopted, Idaho would be the first state to bring school choice to America’s northwest region.”
In addition to the family income requirement, students must have attended public school the previous semester, be entering kindergarten or first grade, or be starting school in Idaho to qualify.
The number of scholarships would be limited by an overall cap of $10 million on available tax credits. Individual scholarships can be worth a private school’s tuition and fees or the amount of per-student government support for a participating child in his or her resident school district. When considering the limited scholarship size and the provisions on student eligibility, the proposal is estimated to save the state and localities more than $5.8 million.
“Should this program become law, Idaho will dramatically increase student access to high-quality schools,” Enlow added. “Education accountability is needed, but that accountability should be driven by parents who are free to choose the learning environments that work best for their children.”
To participate, Idaho private schools must be accredited by the state board of education or a national or regional accreditation agency. Private schools also must administer either the state assessment or a nationally norm-referenced test.
House Bill 286, sponsored by Rep. John Vander Woude and Sen. Bob Nonini, now moves to the Idaho Senate.
Currently, 12 states have tax-credit scholarship programs in operation, serving more than 151,000 children. Just this month, Alabama created its first such private school choice program for students in underperforming public schools.
About the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, solely dedicated to advancing Milton and Rose D. Friedman’s vision of school choice for all children. The Foundation promotes school choice as the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America.
Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice