Tomorrow the House Education Committee can take takes a major step toward true education reform when it considers, HB 344, a bill to provide tax credits of up to $6,000 per year to parents of children with disabilities who choose to educate their children in a nonpublic school or in a public school where tuition is charged. Majority Leader Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake) has introduced this bill or some variation thereof for the last several years. However strong opposition by liberals helped to keep the bill bottled up in committee. This time conservative gains in the House and the Senate work to boost chances for passage in each chamber.
I’ve already written on why tax credits are a good idea. But don't take my word. Education Next, an education reform journal of considerable influence states a compelling case for special needs vouchers and answers many of the objections of voucher opponents. Rep. Stam's bill (HB 344) is patterned after the highly successful McKay Scholarship program in Florida. Recent research (see here, and here) suggests the program is working not only for students but also helps to improve the public schools as well.
Not surprisingly, many oppose the bill. They claim the bill drains resources from public schools. The bill's fiscal estimate , authored by the non-partisan Fiscal Research Office, projects a net savings to the state of approximately $10 million per year for four of the next five years and about $9 million to LEAs over the same time period. The analysis uses midpoint estimates. Figures reflect the cost of tax credits to the state and reduced public school expenditures.
The loss of public school revenues is a telling comment. Shouldn’t our concern be to provide children with the best education possible? The fact is some schools simply don’t have the facilities or staff to provide a good education to special needs children. HB 344 empowers parents with the ability to choose the best education available. It also provides parents with a tax credit so they won't have to pay twice to educate their special needs child.