Testimony Before the Nebraska Legislative Revenue Committee in Support of a Tax Credit Scholarship
Government Relations Director George Jamerson submitted testimony to the Legislative Revenue Committee in support of the Opportunity Scholarship Act
Testimony submitted to the Revenue Committee
George Jamerson, Director of Government Relations
Tim Benson, Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute
March 7, 2019
Chairman Linehan and members of the committee, thank you for taking the time to discuss the issue of tax-credit scholarships (TCS). The Heartland Institute is a 34-year-old independent, national, nonprofit organization whose mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Heartland is headquartered in Illinois and focuses on providing national, state, and local elected officials with reliable and timely research and analyses on important policy issues. Heartland would like to submit the following testimony in support of Opportunity Scholarships Act.
Currently, with 23 different programs in 18 states and more than 1.2 million scholarships granted, TCS programs are the most popular form of private school choice in the country. Even better, they provide several education benefits to participating students while doing so at a lower cost than public schools. A study released in October 2016 by EdChoice “estimates the fiscal effects” of 10 of the nation’s 23 TCS programs (comprising 93 percent of all awarded TCS scholarships). The study found TCS programs have saved “state governments, state and local taxpayers, and school districts” between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion through 2014. In other words, TCS programs saved anywhere from $1,750 to $3,000 per student. The savings in the 2013–14 school year alone (the last year available for study) ranged from $320 million to $580 million.
A 2019 study from the Urban Institute, expanding on previous research of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program—the country’s largest TCS program—found participating students are 99 percent more likely to enroll in a four-year college and 56 percent more likely to graduate than their public school peers.
Copious other empirical research on TCS programs and other school choice initiatives shows these programs offer families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their children’s unique needs and circumstances. Moreover, these programs improve access to schools that deliver quality education inexpensively. Furthermore, these programs benefit public school students and taxpayers by increasing competition, decreasing segregation, and improving civic values and practices.
Students at private schools are also less likely than their public school peers to experience problems such as alcohol abuse, bullying, drug use, fighting, gang activity, racial tension, theft, vandalism, and weapon-based threats. There is also a strong causal link suggesting private school choice programs improve the mental health of participating students.
Currently, private school choice in Nebraska is literally nonexistent. Therefore, enacting a TCS program would be a great first step for the Cornhusker State and would give low-income Nebraska families a greater opportunity to meet the unique education needs of their children.