Private School Tax Credit Goes Down To Defeat In South Carolina House

A proposal to grant a generous tax credit to parents who send their children to religious and other private schools or who educate them at home has failed in the South Carolina House of Representatives over concerns that it would cost too much.

The vote in May was close at 61-59. Supporters said they were encouraged and would bring the plan back next year. It has been introduced every year since 2004.

“We’re gaining ground every year,” state Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R-Beaufort) told the Columbia State. “This was the closest vote yet.”

Under the plan, private school patrons would have received a tax credit ranging from $1,800 to $4,700. Parents who home school would have received $1,000. It was estimated that the plan would have cost the state $6 million by its second year and perhaps as much as $133 million by 2024.

Several lawmakers told The State they considered the proposal too costly.

In other news about aid to religious schools:

• Efforts to bring private school voucher subsidies to Pennsylvania continue to encounter stumbling blocks. A June pro-voucher rally in Harrisburg attracted mostly reporters and staff members of the group FreedomWorks, which is pushing the concept in the state. A reporter for the Allentown Morning Call called FreedomWorks, which is run by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), an “Astroturf group” and noted that only one speaker at the event was from Pennsylvania.

Part of the problem may be that some Tea Party activists in the state are not enthusiastic about the idea.

A forum on vouchers in Shippensburg June 6 attracted only 11 attendees, reported the website Huffington Post. One woman told a FreedomWorks staffer, “Everybody is sick of taxes. And now we’re coming up with another program which is going to involve more money, and it’s going to start on the low-income side. People are tired of having to pay and pay and pay and see no results.”

Gov. Tom Corbett has pushed the program, which would at first be limited to low-income residents in a few Pennsylvania cities. It has been estimated that the program would cost at least $250 million, at a time when the state has slashed spending and faces billions in a budget shortfall.

• Legislators in Wisconsin have approved a measure to expand the state’s voucher program, currently limited to the city of Milwaukee, to at least one more jurisdiction – the city of Racine. The scheme, promoted by Gov. Scott Walker, was inserted into the state budget, which is awaiting approval from the legislature. The new aid to religious and other private schools comes at a time when state support for public schools is being cut by $800 million over two years.

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s hope for a sweeping school voucher plan in the state is running into trouble as suburban parents express skepticism.

A Democratic ally of Christie, State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) has stepped away from the proposal and now says he wants a “laser-like” solution aimed at “chronically failing” urban schools, reported the Newark Star-Ledger.

At the same time, Sen. Dick Codey (D-Essex), said he is sensing concern from parents in the suburbs.

“Many people support their public schools, and they are reacting with anger to the idea they should be privatized,” said Codey. “Suburban Republicans are caught between what Christie wants and what their constituents want.”