Tax credits would be established to provide money for private school scholarships under a bill approved Tuesday by the House.
Senate Bill 969 would allow companies to donate as much as $100,000 to a nonprofit organization that would award the scholarships. Couples could donate up to $2,000, while individuals could donate up to $1,000.
The measure would allow a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the total amount of contribution to a nonprofit, scholarship-
For the most part, eligible public school students would be able to seek a maximum annual scholarship of $5,000. Students with special needs could receive up to $25,000 a year. The scholarships would be for public school students in low-income families or in low-
The House passed the measure by a vote of 64-33. It goes back to the Senate.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, argued against the measure, saying it would be a tax voucher.
“This is not a voucher,” said Rep. Lee Denney, the House author of SB 969. “This is not public money going to private schools. This is private dollars going to private schools.”
Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said the $5,000 scholarship for most public school students in urban areas would not be enough to cover tuition costs of private schools.
But Denney, R-
“A child could select a school that this would make a huge impact on the tuition,” she said.
Others argued that SB 969 would take away revenue from the state. The tax credits are projected to cost the state about $4 million of revenue in the 2013 fiscal year, $11 million the next year and $5 million for each subsequent year.
Denny said it wouldn't have an actual effect on the state's revenue because of existing tax practices.
“The money going to these scholarship programs is money the state would never have received anyway since it would have been sheltered through other tax breaks already on the books,” Denney said. “By providing citizens a way to obtain the same tax breaks while also benefiting needy children in both urban and rural areas, we are maximizing the use of those dollars to benefit poor children who would otherwise be denied the education they desperately need to break the cycle of poverty and create a better life for their families.”
Overall, the bill provides for a maximum $5 million in annual credits allowed — $3.5 million would go to individual scholarships, while the remaining $1.5 million would fund grants to help rural schools in areas where private school is not an option.
SB 969 would allow donors to give similar amounts to most rural schools. The money would be given to nonprofit groups or foundations that support public schools; public schools would apply for money to be used to offer courses not in the school district's budget.
Eligible public schools would have to be more than 10 miles away from a private school and have an enrollment of 4,200 or less.