Tax dollars for private school tuition gain in states

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Opponents called it a "bombshell" and "sleaziness." Backers said it was "historic" and would free low-income students from failing public schools. Hyperbole aside, the Alabama Legislature's last-minute move to create a $3,500 state tax credit for private school tuition is emblematic of a growing movement in the states.

Thirteen states created or expanded tuition tax credits, private school scholarships or traditional vouchers in 2013, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states did so in 2012 and seven states in 2011, according to the group.

Private school vouchers have been around for quite a while. But some state supreme courts have questioned the constitutionality of giving parents public education dollars to send their children to parochial schools.

To get around that issue, states have turned to strategies that are less direct. Some have created tax credits for parents who pay private school tuition. Others are giving tax credits to those who donate to private scholarship funds that dole out money to families who need help paying for private school.

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