Rhode Island’s tax-credit scholarship program, enacted in 2006 and launched in 2007, offers a 75 percent tax credit to businesses that donate to scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) or 90 percent if donated for two consecutive years and the second year’s donation is worth at least 80 percent of the first year’s donation. SGOs are non-profits that offer private school scholarships of varying amounts to students from low-income households. Learn more about this tax-credit scholarship program’s funding, eligibility, regulations, and governing statutes on this page.
Rhode Island offers tax credits to businesses supporting scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs), nonprofits that provide private school scholarships.
Scholarships are funded by donations to scholarship-granting organizations. Businesses may receive tax credits for donations to SGOs. Those committing to donate for two consecutive years with the second year’s donation equal to or exceeding 80 percent of the first year’s donation may receive 90 percent credits. Otherwise, tax credits are worth 75 percent of donations to SGOs. Rhode Island allocates $1.5 million for tax credits meant for SGO donations. SGOs determine scholarship amounts.
Students must have family incomes at or below 250 percent of the poverty level ($62,750 for a family of four in 2018–19).
Rhode Island’s tax-credit scholarship is severely limited by its extremely low $1.5 million cap for available funding, which can provide only a tiny fraction of the scholarships demanded. Only about one-third of potential donors have been able to participate in any given year. The program does have several positive features as well. The 75 percent credit (if donating for one year or 90 percent if donating for two years) offers an attractive opportunity for corporations to continue supporting the program. SGOs have the flexibility to determine their own student funding amounts. Regulations on private schools are reasonable and unobtrusive. Schools must comply with health, safety and nondiscrimination laws, employ teachers with bachelor’s degrees and conduct teacher background checks. The program could serve more children if policymakers would increase the overall cap or add an escalator clause, similar to Florida’s or New Hampshire’s, to allow the program to grow to meet demand.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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