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Idaho lawmakers introduce exciting "Parental Choice Tax Credit"

Updated: Jan 12

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Idaho State Representative Wendy Horman and Idaho State Senator Lori Den Hartog announced Friday they will be introducing a bill this legislative session that would permit refundable tax credits of up to $5,000 for families to offset the cost of school tuition and other education-related expenses. Because the credit would be refundable, even those who don't necessarily have a large tax liability would benefit.

The "Parental Choice Tax Credit" calls for a $40 million cap, on a first come, first serve basis, with an additional $10 million being set aside for low income families. In total, it's $50 million, which, if you compared to the state's K-12 budget, equals less than one half of one percent.

For the vast majority of those who like their public schools, nothing would change. In fact, it is likely that fewer than 5% of Idaho children would take advantage of the tax credits. But for those who do, for those who need options other than the traditional public school setting, it could be a game changer.

The program would be overseen by the State Tax Commission, and would contain the same type of accountability as anyone in the state would face to be truthful on their taxes.

Tax credits or tax credit scholarships are not unusual in the education choice arena. In fact, ten other states offer similar programs:

44 participating students

Average tax credit: $3,478

210,224 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $322

57,878 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $1,835

104,641 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $134

64,411 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $5,922

145,623 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $1,307

18,191 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $287

For all homeschooling students

Tax credit: $250

For all families participating in non-chartered public school

Tax credit: $1,500

Launching this year

213 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $9,390

32,410 participating taxpayers

Average tax credit: $5,055

Research shows the key is to make sure the tax credits range from $3,000 to $6,000 to ensure the credit is large enough to help cover a family's decision to change schooling options.

As Rep. Horman and Sen. Den Hartog said on Friday, the concept would not strip money any money from public schools. It is, in fact, complementary.

The program is also very different from previous Education Savings Account or ESA proposals - where the state would administer funds that parents could use on eligible expenses.

Neither the tax credit nor ESA proposals are "vouchers." It is intentionally misleading to say so.

Polling has shown providing more education choice options to families is popular across party lines and various demographics. That is true in Idaho and across the nation as well.

We have a unique opportunity to put political divisions aside and create a unique Idaho-centered plan. The goal needs to be the education of Idaho’s children so that they can be productive citizens and workers and lead enriched lives.

If more education choice can help improve the educational outcomes of just one child, it’s worth trying.

Idaho's proposed "Parental Choice Tax Credit" is a step in the right direction.

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