September 19, 2006

School Choice: Making Progress in Rhode Island

Marc Comtois

In July, I pointed to a Morton Kondracke column that noted that those of diverse political persuasions may be forming a consensus on school reform. While I was away on vacation in August, I missed a report that suggests we are making such bipartisan-supported progress here in Rhode Island.

The Heritage Foundation has issued their "School Choice: 2006 Progress Report", which divulges:

Seven states—Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island— have tax credits or deductions for education expenses, including private school tuition, or incentives for contributions to scholarship programs....

In Rhode Island, lawmakers cre­ated a new $1 million corporate scholarship tax credit program to provide tuition scholarships to children from low-income families. To receive a scholarship, a student must be from a family with an income below 250 percent of the poverty line.

Upon further digging, I discovered this press release from the Alliance For School Choice.
The Rhode Island Senate Saturday passed a corporate scholarship tax credit program that will allow hundreds of low-income families to expand their educational options and send their children to private or parochial schools. Rhode Island becomes the eighth state in the country to enact a targeted school choice program and the third state with a school choice victory this month.

“This program is the result of bipartisan statesmanship, putting kids' interests above politics. This has been a record-setting year for school choice, which is great news for children across the country,” declared Clint Bolick, president and general counsel of the Phoenix-based Alliance for School Choice, a national nonpartisan policy organization that supports expanded educational options for disadvantaged schoolchildren.

With a cap of $1 million, the state’s first private school choice program allows corporations to donate up to $100,000 per year to scholarship granting organizations. It passed an overwhelmingly Democrat House and Senate as part of Gov. Don Carcieri’s budget.

“The program makes sense. It saves money for the public schools and it gives poor kids a choice in education and allows them to afford non-public schools,” said Rev. Bernard A. Healey, government liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Providence.

Qualified families must have a household income of 250 percent of the poverty level. Each donating business will receive a 75 percent credit for a one-year commitment and a 90 percent credit for a two-year commitment

The Alliance commends Senate President Joe Montalbano, House Speaker Bill Murphy and Rev. Healey for their tremendous courage in supporting this much needed educational opportunity for Rhode Island's working families.

The targeting of low-income children is the proper focus and this is definitely progress....but I want more! More money, more tax credits--for both corporations and parents--and more school choice options for all students.

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"The Alliance commends Senate President Joe Montalbano, House Speaker Bill Murphy and Rev. Healey for their tremendous courage in supporting this much needed educational opportunity for Rhode Island's working families."

Notice the lack of mention of Gov. Carcieri, despite it being part of HIS budget proposal...

Posted by: Greg at September 19, 2006 12:23 PM

Trouble on the horizon....

"State school boards, ACLU to sue over law on corporate donations "

The Arizona Republic
Sept. 15, 2006 12:00 AM

The Arizona School Boards Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona announced Wednesday that they are preparing to legally challenge a new law that allows corporations to donate money to private schools.

The law allows a business to reduce the amount of taxes it owes the state if it instead donates the money to private schools.

The bill caps the donation amount to a collective $10 million a year. advertisement

Those millions belong in the general fund to help pay for public schools, School Boards Association officials said.

They also claim the law violates the state Constitution, which prohibits giving state money to private or religious schools and requires the state Legislature to provide a "general and uniform" public school system.

The organizations plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Arizona Department of Revenue.

Posted by: Bill F at September 19, 2006 5:10 PM