In honor of “School Choice Week,” the House and Senate education committees held hearings on tax credit bills that would give parents incentives to send their students to private schools. HF386/SF256 would create up to $35 million in scholarships for low-income students to attend non-public schools.
It establishes a tax credit incentive for those who donate to 501C3 foundations who would award the scholarships. The bill would allow qualified donors to receive an income tax credit for donations to qualified schools to create scholarships that would be awarded to eligible students.
It would also extend the individual K-12 education-expense tax credit to include non-public school tuition, and adjust it with inflation beginning in tax year 2019. The $35 million is considered a tax expenditure.
“I think we ought to give people options,” said Ron Kresha (R-Little Falls), the bill’s author, who went on to say, “Not one penny will come out of K-12 education funding streams.”
The Senate E12 Policy Committee heard the the companion bill, SF256, sponsored by Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) later in the day.
Concerns whether scholarship money could end up funding religious or discriminatory institutions, and how to keep a private school accountable were voiced. “I worry that the intent might be good, but in practice the program would not work as intended,” stated Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley).”
MREA Executive Director Dr. Fred Nolan testified before the Senate E12 Committee in opposition to SF256. He concluded his testimony with:
“Rural schools are the center of the community. When they close, not much else remains. State tax policy should strengthen schools and their communities, not further divide them by sending kids in different directions and even to neighboring states.
MREA opposes HF386 and SF256, which have the potential to encourage students to leave their rural community schools thereby weakening both the school and community. Instead we ask that look for ways the formula can support rural students, schools and communities.”