One federal proposal would create a new school choice tax credit

More states are giving parents options when it comes to their kids’ education. School choice programs allow parents to use public money to choose the school they believe fits their child’s needs.

Ashley Elliot is a recent college graduate and she participated in Flordia’s school choice program growing up. She credits the state program with giving her access to more school options including a private one that helped her succeed.

“None of it would have been possible if I hadn’t gotten that scholarship in the first place,” said Elliot.

According to the nonprofit organization, EdChoice, the number of students using education savings accounts has nearly tripled, jumping from 33,000 in 2022 to 93,000 last year.

Now some lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to expand them even more. One proposal would create a new federal tax credit for school choice scholarships. It would be funded by private donations and those donors would receive a federal tax break.

This effort to expand school vouchers is primarily led by Republicans. GOP lawmakers believe an estimated two million students would be eligible for school choice scholarships.

“I believe that we should make sure every child has an option and realize that no one child learns the same,” said Elliot.

But leaders at the National Education Association argue these voucher programs can have negative impact on public schools which support 90 percent of students.

“It’s largely about subsidizing families that already made a decision to send their kids to private education,” said Marc Egan, director of Government Relations at the National Education Association.

Egan said parents are more concerned about other critical needs for students.

“Whether it be smaller class sizes, so students can get individual attention, whether it be ensuring that all schools are safe from gun violence, that there’s mental health supports,” said Egan. “That’s what parents want all over the country.”

He believes Congress could turn their attention to more investments in special education nationwide.

“That’s one area that Congress could fulfill its commitment that I made long time ago for students with disabilities, but by doing so you would actually help a lot of education budgets all over the country,” he said.

No word yet on when the house could take this bill up for a vote.