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Colorado House Misses Chance to Break the Government-School Monopoly

August 14, 2018
By Colorado state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud)

As Colorado parents prepared to send their children back to school this fall, they faced yet another school year without a comprehensive educational tax credit system for those who wish to choose options other than the government-run school paradigm.

As Colorado parents prepared to send their children back to school this fall, they faced yet another school year without a comprehensive educational tax credit system for those who wish to choose options other than the traditional government-run school paradigm.

The Colorado Senate approved Senate Bill 83 (S.B. 83) in May, a bill I sponsored that would have enacted income tax credits for parents enrolling children in nonpublic educational programs.

The Senate has approved bills similar to S.B. 63 four times in the last four years. Each time, lawmakers in the House refused to approve such bills, effectively preserving the public school monopoly.

The public school monopoly often fails to meet the individual needs of children who would otherwise thrive in a different educational environment. An educational tax credit system would have offered a solution for the parents of these at-risk children, by making education choice and freedom more readily available to all families. By stifling competition and cutting off options available to parents, the government’s education machine places self-preservation above the best interests of the children it claims to serve.

Thwarting Progress

Parents are increasingly recognizing how viable alternatives to the monopoly, including homeschooling and enrollment in private schools, can benefit their children. The educational, economic, and social benefits of educational freedom are becoming more widely accepted, and many families are clamoring for educational tax credits, creating a demand S.B. 83 would have met.

If not for the House committee’s rejection, undertaken at the behest of the government machine, Colorado parents with children trapped in the failing government school system would have been empowered to seek out better fits for their educational needs.

Transferable Tax Credits

S.B. 83 would have offered two “tracks” for parents interested in exploring alternatives to the monopoly.

The first track would have given about $3,000 in annual income tax credits to parents moving their children from public to private schools. The second track, for parents interested in homeschooling, would have granted a $1,000 annual income tax credit.

The credits were designed to help lower-income families, and would have been transferable. In other words, a family with little or no income tax liabilities could “sell” the credit to another Colorado income taxpayer. Addressing any potential allegations of fraud, this transfer system would have been kept accountable by provisions requiring a proof of payment to the private school in question.

No Effect on Taxpayers

By rejecting the bill, the Colorado House passed up an opportunity to help children and parents without costing taxpayers a single dime.

Whereas a voucher takes funding directly from government coffers and gives it to individuals, a tax-credit system simply allows individuals to keep more of their already-earned money.

The House committee’s vote effectively requires some Colorado taxpayers to pay for services they are not using. The state spends about $10,000 per year per child enrolled in government schools, an order of magnitude larger than the value of the tax credits the bill would have offered.

Promoting All, Favoring None

If the House had voted to approve S.B. 83, no educational option would have been put above another. All would have been on equal footing.

Parents would have had the power to make the best decision for their children, and they would have been given the financial resources to execute that choice.

It’s up to lawmakers in every state, including Colorado, to do what they can to enable parents to obtain the best possible education for their children. Parents in every state should demand their elected representatives explore legislative solutions similar to Colorado’s S.B. 83, and parents in the Centennial State should call for the General Assembly to try again to push this idea across the finish line.

The stakes—the future of all of our children—are too high to allow the government education monopoly to win again.

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