Is Alaska on the verge of creating another private school choice model?
Two days ago, the Alaska House passed an amendment to HB 278 to expand to private schools an existing tax credit for Alaska’s colleges, universities, endowments, and museums. The proposal is unlike any other school choice program in place, as it is not structured like a traditional tax-credit scholarship or individual tax credit. The program will provide a state tax credit to various entities (mining-based, fisheries, etc.) that donate to public and private educational institutions. The proposal reads (with the text in bold being the amended language):
(a) A person engaged in the business of (mining, fisheries, etc.) in the state is allowed a credit against the tax due under this chapter for cash contributions accepted for
(1) direct instruction, research, and educational support purposes, including library and museum acquisitions, and contributions to endowment, by an Alaska university foundation, [OR] by a nonprofit, public or private, Alaska two-year or four-year college accredited by a regional accreditation association, or by a public or private nonprofit elementary or secondary school in the state;
(4) a facility [OR AN ANNUAL INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORTS TOURNAMENT] by a nonprofit, public or private, Alaska two-year or four-year college accredited by a regional accreditation association or by a public or private nonprofit elementary or secondary school in the state;
In addition, a second part of the amendment provides a tax credit for donations to approved nonprofits that then grant scholarships to students who are receiving dual credits for high school and college-level courses. That amendment states:
for funding a scholarship awarded by a nonprofit organization to a dual credit student to defray the cost of a dual-credit course, including the cost of
(A) tuition and textbooks;
(B) registration, course, and programmatic student fees;
(C) on-campus room and board at the postsecondary institution in the state that provides the dual-credit course;
(D) transportation costs to and from a residential school approved by the Department of Education and Early Development under AS 14.16.200 or the postsecondary school in the state that provides the dual-credit course; and
(E) other related educational and programmatic costs;
Notably, that language is silent on whether the scholarship would be available to private school students, although it appears the intent is for any dual-credit student, public or private, to be eligible.
Based on that limited legislative language, any accompanied rules and regulations likely would be handled administratively should the proposal become law.
Alaska’s constitution is perceived to be restrictive when it comes to traditional school choice measures, such as vouchers. That has prompted supporters to advocate for a constitutional amendment, which they have been working toward for several years.
This proposed tax credit and potential tax-credit scholarship adds not only a twist to those efforts but potentially to the traditional school choice movement nationwide as well.
This story will be updated should further action on the proposal be taken.