Oklahoma House passes private school tax credits measure

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 27, 2011
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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-granting organization. The organizations would have to be formed if the measure becomes law.

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-performing schools.

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-Cushing, said the scholarship would be a help to most families and that some private schools do have tuition close to $5,000.

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